Friday, January 6, 2012

Ten Quick Thoughts on...Crazy, Stupid, Love.

1. For the most part, this is a quality relationship comedy. The first 90 minutes (or so) of its two-hour running time is witty and fun, but it kind of falls off the wheels in the final half-hour and gets ridiculously cheesy in parts. The ending seeks to tie up way too many bows, and it just doesn't work.

2. I've liked Ryan Gosling in stuff he's done before (Blue Valentine jumps quickly to mind) and after seeing his performance as a highly skilled lothario in this one I am excited to see some of the other movies he put out this year, such as The Ides of March and Drive. The guy just seems like the consummate movie star. He is equally efficient in comedy and drama, and he simply exudes charm. He strikes me as the type of guy who has the potential to become as huge as a George Clooney or a Brad Pitt. I simply wonder if he will be willing to do the sort of schlock that they had to do early in their careers before they gained the ability to hand-pick their scripts and directors (although he may already be there). For examples of Clooney and Pitt schlock, see One Fine Day and Meet Joe Black, respectively.

3. I guess only time will tell if Steve Carell's choice to leave The Office to pursue a full-time career in movies was a wise one, but he is funny and effective in this film as a sad-sack father whose wife leaves him in part because he has an affinity for white New Balance sneakers. The role was right in his wheelhouse. It came off as a less over-the-top version of his role in Judd Apatow's The 40 Year Old Virgin. He was equally believable as the loser whose wife entered into an affair with her co-worker and the revitalized bachelor who works wonders on the ladies after a tutorial from Gosling. It's a versatile performance with equal parts hilarity and sincerity. I just wonder if he will be able to find many filmmakers who are willing to build films around an actor of his limited sex appeal. Just saying. He ain't no Gosling. One more thing: The Office really should have shut down once he decided to bounce. Is anybody watching that these days?

4. There's a plotline in here about a young female babysitter with a massive crush on Carell's character pre-makeover. I suppose when you are a young girl you've got those hormones working and you are ready to jump in bed with whatever man would be willing to usher you into adulthood, but I don't know. That whole thing just didn't seem earned, especially when the girl starts taking naked pictures of herself to give to dude. Rang a bit false.

5. Julianne Moore does a little bit with the part of Carell's wife, who is going through a sort of mid-life crisis that causes her to do stupid things like having an affair or going to see a Twilight movie, but I sort of hope this isn't the direction her career is going on a permanent basis. I know it is tough in Hollywood for middle-aged actresses, but the woman who gave incredible performances as a conflicted porn star in Boogie Nights or a housewife haunted by her husband's homosexuality in Far From Heaven shouldn't have to be playing these sorts of second-banana suffering-wife roles.

6. Emma Stone became a bit of an "It Girl" for a moment there after performances in films like Superbad and Easy A. And she may still take off in a major way since she is cast as Gwen Stacy in the upcoming reboot of the Spiderman franchise. Anyway, she had some very good moments in this film, especially in some highly-charged scenes with Gosling, but nothing really screamed "revelation."

7. The incredibly strange journey of Marisa Tomei continues here, as she appears as a lonely school teacher who becomes a temporary object of Carell's affection. After a career that started with high-profile roles in My Cousin Vinny (for which she won an Oscar) and Untamed Heart, her career cooled off in a major way. However, here she continues a string of roles where she emerges as one of the best parts of the movie. First there was her role as a woman who comes between two brothers in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. Then there was her stripper with a heart of gold in The Wrestler (yes, I realize I am citing two movies where she got completely naked, which is probably more than a coincidence). And now she shines in this fully clothed role, scoring tons of laughs and serving as both catalyst for Carell's redemption and obstacle in his hoped-for return to homelife normalcy.

8. Maybe I have a problem with child actors. Most come off as either cutely wooden scenery or incessantly whining annoyances. However, the kid who plays Carell's son here is particularly grating. Constantly pining for the love of the babysitter who is into Carell's character, he makes you crave for the moments when he is barred from the screen. His ceaselessly cheeseball antics further torpedo the ending, which sees the babysitter hand over to him the nude photos she had previously took for Papa. I guess they are trying to make you believe that this girl who is heading off for college is going to end up getting with this long-haired, stock "wise beyond his years" kiddie character one day? Please. Only in Hollywood is a kid like this gonna be bagging a hot chick four years his senior.

9. Haven't touched much on the actual filmmaking rendered by directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. While there isn't much here that would suggest that these guys will evolve into visual stylists, there is some nice use of montage. Then again, the structure of the film was a little weird, with characters disappearing for large chunks at a time, to the point where you would find yourself wondering where they went. This was OK when it was Moore who was going AWOL, but when Gosling took a powder for 15 to 20 minutes the flick suffered. There was also a sequence that used trick photography to show Carell going on a bunch of different dates. It was one that could have been done just as effectively via editing and its high-tech nature seemed to be out-of-place in an otherwise simply shot low-budget piece.

10. As I stated before, the ending took a very decent comedy and flushed it. There's an idiotic sequence at the annoying kid's eighth grade graduation. There's a twist that reveals that Carell and Moore have another kid, which seems completely unearned when you consider that they scarcely talk about this other child during the entire running time previous (won't tell you the kid as it would be a major spoiler). There's the nonsense with the babysiter and the annoying kid. There is some cutesy stuff with Carell and Moore, who you can only imagine will be back together roughly five seconds after the credits start rolling. Gosling's performance, meanwhile, goes quickly down the drain, as he looks suitably uncomfortable while all these goings-on are occuring. It's a shame. The first 3/4 of the movie are slightly flawed yet totally worth seeing. The last 30 minutes are worthy of a Lifetime movie of the week.

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