Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Crazy, Stupid, Love.: A Light Tour Through the Not So Serious Tribulations of Romance

Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Directed By: Glenn Ficarra and John Requa
Written By: Dan Fogelman
Starring: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Kevin Bacon, Marissa Tomei, Analeigh Tipton, Jonah Bobo, and John Carroll Lynch.
Director of Photography: Andrew Dunn, Editor: Lee Haxall, Production Designer: William Arnold, Original Music: Chrsophe Beck and Nick Urata
Rated: PG-13 for some language and some (light) sexual content.

            While most people who see the new romantic comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love. (the anemic inducing punctuation is correct) will discuss the jokes or the actors, the one thing I could not help but notice was the lighting. Few films in more recent memory have employed such soft lighting throughout, with such brightly lit rooms that shine perfectly upon the actors no matter the place or time. Back in the 1940s, such lighting styles were typical for the first close-ups on an actress, as it would make her skin seem more delicate, her hair more glowing, and simply stun the hell out of anyone watching it. So what is a lighting style like that doing in every frame of this movie?

            Well, directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa have a story on their hands that is light, frothy, heartwarming, and barely tips into a side of serious issues for maybe a matter of minutes. Working from a script by Dan Fogelman, Mr. Ficarra and Mr. Requa understand that such narratives about the inane and absurd world of relationships is not exactly groundbreaking material, and treat it accordingly so. Thus, Crazy, Stupid, Love. goes down like a frothed butter on warm chocolate cake: it’s sweet, delicious, and never too serious—which works both for and against it.

            The film is led by now-former Office star Steve Carell as Cal. As we begin, Cal and his wife (Julianne Moore) are calling it quits after twenty five years. We aren’t exactly given many details on why that is true—the camera keeps pointing to Cal’s New Balance sneakers, making me self-conscious about my own current footwear. Cal heads to the bar, where he gets the attention of Jacob, a smooth talking clean cut Ryan Gosling, whose muscles have the attention of every woman in America. Mr. Gosling is of course remembered by many as the heartthrob of The Notebook, but otherwise has rapidly matured as an actor playing in films like Half Nelson, Lars and the Real Girl, and Blue Valentine. And as a debonair hunk, Mr. Gosling knows how to transform himself into another type all together.

            Jacob is there to teach Cal what the real lessons of being a man are, which include clothes, hairstyle, conversational skills, and the what not. The whole thing is a little too hetero-normative and socially conservative, but like the rest of the film, taken with such ease that it’s really hard to truly criticize the film for giving fashion tips. Plus, Mr. Carell and Mr. Gosling have natural chemistry, with Mr. Carell toning down his awkward-is-funny pathos from the Office just a tinge to play a little more with his absurd humor, and Mr. Gosling knowing how to bounce off each of his lines. You can’t help but wish though the film gave us more time with Jacob, whose almost angelic presence is never properly explained. We get more of him later in the film when he starts a fling with the naturally effortless Emma Stone that gets a show stopping sequence in romantic chemistry on film, but Mr. Fogelman never really allows us to see inside his apparently impenetrable personality.

            But as the film involves itself in a number of other subplots involving people in absurd stories of love (which of course all converge in a typically coincidental way), Mr. Fogelman’s point is laid out in giant sand letters: love is this crazy thing that none of us can control, and it’s all totally worth it. The difference between this and say, an Annie Hall or Chungking Express, is that there’s rarely a sense of pathos. Mr. Ficarra and Mr. Requa play the material as written, where a few risk taking choices would have made love truly feel like it should: both wondrously joyful and endlessly difficult, cramped between amazing flights of emotion and screams of torment. Crazy, Stupid, Love. is perfectly content on only giving half that story; it does it well, but it is still only half.


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