Academic Writing

Monday, August 15, 2011

Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Image from

The movie lives up to its name.  It’s kinda crazy, definitely stupid, but does have love.  And isn't than all you need?  Essentially it tells parallel stories of love at four different stages.  The young adolescent discovering his sexuality, the teenager exploring it, the 20-something year old settling into it and the 40-year olds trying to figure out what to do with it once it’s settled.

Steve Carell and Julianne Moore play Cal and Emily Weaver, a weathered couple who have hit the 25-years of marriage road-block.  Apparently she is having some sort of midlife crisis and decides to leave him for her smarmy coworker played by Kevin Bacon.  Or, I should say, tells him to leave her and kicks him out of the house.  Wallowing in self-pity, Cal plops himself at a bar night upon night until Jacob (Ryan Gosling, looking his best I might add), a swarthy, chiseled playboy takes him under his wing and gives him a makeover and helps him pick up hot chicks for one night stands.

Unfortunately, the Weavers are the couple the film decided to center all the action around.  In a world where both filmic and real-life couples are experiencing unprecedented divorce rates, the central couple doesn’t add anything to the landscape.  They barely communicate and definitely don’t fight for one another.  In fact, it’s a wonder they managed to stay together for as long as they did.  They say they love each other and have a long history together, but the film doesn’t really show a longstanding love for one another other than some huggy photos.  

The more interesting characters are those that surround them.  Cal and Emily’s young son, Robbie (Jonah Bobo) is learning what it means to love someone.  He has fallen hard for his 17-year old babysitter, Jessica (Analeigh Tipton) who has a school girl crush on Cal and thinks that’s.  She’s learning that just because someone is nice to you that doesn’t mean they love you.  I’m not going to lie, this son-babysitter-father love triangle made me pretty uncomfortable especially as we see the lengths Jessica goes to get Cal to notice her.

Then there’s Jacob.  I must say that watching Ryan Gosling was my favorite part of this movie.  He plays the smooth, sexy, ladies’ man so well and with a certain vulnerable confidence that you don’t even realize he’s a womanizing jerk.  He works his lines Hannah (Emma Stone) in the first few minutes of the movie and even though she doesn’t initially bite, since this is a RomCom, we know the formula and that they’ll meet again, even if it’s not till about an 60 minutes into the film.  But during the interim we see him dressed up, dressed down and everything in between and when they finally reunite and upon seeing him shirtless Hannah exclaims “What, are you photoshopped?!” she has taken the words right out of the audience’s mouths. At least in my theater, the audience both laughed and cheered at this proclamation.

The movie plods along with the standard miscommunications, mishaps and funny one-liners that are the hallmarks of a romantic comedy.  There’s nothing particularly new or groundbreaking about this movie, and when the 4 parallel stories converge at the end of the movie as we knew they would there is a mix of both surprise and eye-rolling. 

At its heart Love wants to be making grand pronounced statements of what love is at different stages and how men relate to it at different stages.  Make no mistake, this is a movie about how men relate to love.  Yes, there are female leads and female focalization, but ultimately we are witnessing how men relate to those women.  How a 13 year old boy reacts to discovering how much he loves his babysitter and the lengths at which he’ll go to get her.  It’s about how a married man can supposedly love his wife of a quarter of a century yet not, for one second, fight for her when she says she’s going through a midlife crisis until it’s too late.  And finally, how one suave 20-something realizes there is more to life than sleeping with a different girl every night.  The message is clear: even when women precipitate the action, love is something that ultimately men control the outcome for.

I wanted to love this movie: I like the cast, I like comedies, I like love stories.  I walked out of this movie confused as to what it was saying about love, but I guess the title says it all: it’s crazy and it’s stupid.  Maybe that's the point of this movie.  Love isn't a cerebral, intellectual exploration.  It's about feelings, and emotion doesn't always have reason or make sense.  So, the title alone relieves the film from all expectation that it would say that love is anything other than crazy and stupid. 

1 comment:

Dan O. said...

Good Review! Overall, the film is too conventional for my liking. It needed to be sharper, wittier, and funnier. But for average summer fare, it’s okay. It’s far from perfect and runs on the long side, but rom-com and chick flick lovers will likely be satisfied. Check out my site whenever you can!