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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Review-ish: Crazy, Stupid, Love.

I liked Crazy Stupid Love.

Then I wanted to fall deeply in love with it.

And then, when we separated, I couldn’t quite figure out why I wasn’t.

Well, truth is, I kinda knew. I knew when the first major scene between Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone was a slice of movie perfection, balancing irony, romance, and the fantasies we all have about people who aren’t quite offering all that they are to the world.

Problem was… it was the B story that was skyrocketing. The A story was… nice and had a good personality. The C story was also a nip more interesting than the A story.

But okay… I’m still with this film… maybe that scene was the start of something GREAT.

And then, there is this massive, interesting, charming top-of-the-third-act twist… and it’s great… and yet, not.

So my brain is whirring, trying to figure out why this beautiful girl who is smart and loves me and loves sex and loves movies, etc, isn’t really The One.

The answer seems easy. Third act surprise should have been the second act surprise and the film needed to dump some of the boring stuff and let the exciting parts fly.

But then, I realize how odd this film’s construction really is and that it is really a souffle and that maybe it could be completely ruined by trying to fix it at all. Where you start and where you end in this tale feels right… it’s where the audience wants to go. But it becomes unwieldy and awkward through the middle.

Hmmm…

Kevin Bacon, for me, gives another strong performance this summer in a role he shouldn’t have been cast in. He just unbalances his role in the piece by being… Kevin Bacon.

On the other hand, Marisa Tomei is pretty great… game… funny. Probably in the movie a little too much at one point because she draws focus, but she was just about perfect.

It’s Carell’s movie and he carries it effortlessly. Julianne Moore is without imperfection, but it’s not her film. Analeigh Tipton is a real find… a real-life version of Violet from The Incredibles, a couple of years further along in her development. A lighter Shelley Duvall. Jonah Bobo is not quite as interesting, but he never hits a false note.

And Gosling & Stone each get to flex their muscles. At least half of their line readings are hiding something and each manages to get across the text and the subtext perfectly. This movie frustrated me even more about Stone doing The Amazing Spider-Man because she should be doing leads, not playing The Girl, not matter how much more active this girl is than girls in Spidey’s past incarnations. Gosling remains The Next Great Hope for a male movie superstar. All he has to do is to want it enough.

So… in closing… LOVED parts of the film… liked most of the film… cast was solid and at times perfect. It’s a throwback to John Hughes and even further, to Howard Hawks or gentle Billy Wilder.

But it’s not the great film that its DNA wants to build. It could have been a true classic. But it’s not. It’s good. But it’s too complicated and too simple and too distracted and not distracted enough. And one straw of change could ruin the whole thing.

Thing is, when I look at screenwriter Dan Fogelman’s resume, I get it. Fred Claus, Bolt, Tangled. Very similar problems. I have no idea how rewritten this film was. The directors are screenwriters as well. But all four films were loaded with great stuff… and all four needed a strong producer who could break and reset the bones of the screenplays to take them from “good” to “great.”

There is a 5 minute sequence in this film that I would put on every loop of the greatest romantic films of all time. There is an entire film in those few minutes.

And then there’s the rest, which I won’t probably stop to watch when I pass by it on cable/satellite next year.

Wait. Lying. I will watch the movie again. Maybe a few times. Because I want to understand what went so right and what went so wrong.

Some people seem to LOVE this movie… some seem to have been really disappointed.

I get that.

27 Responses to “Review-ish: Crazy, Stupid, Love.”

  1. Rob says:

    “This movie frustrated me even more about Stone doing The Amazing Spider-Man because she should be doing leads, not playing The Girl, not matter how much more active this girl is than girls in Spidey’s past incarnations.”

    And this is why I worry about Stone, whose appeal is more Catherine Keener than Kate Hudson. Studio movies tend to not have a place for actresses like her.

  2. Peter says:

    “And then, there is this massive, interesting, charming top-of-the-third-act twist… and it’s great… and yet, not.”

    I loved the movie before that twist. I thought it’s one of the best if not the best rom-com in several years. That twist in itself is very good, really funny, but it odesn’t fit in here. After that point, it turns into Love Actually, which is fine if that’s what the movie is aiming for from the beginning, but in this case, not really. It’s too bad because there are so many good things in the first 75 minutes.

    Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are so good together. Stone is such a likable presence, and everything she does seems so easy. The camera loves her, she has a bit Sandra Bullock in her. Hopefully Stone can choose her roles better.

    Carrell is fine, his character is similar to 40 Year Old Virgin. The lack of a back-story between Moore and Carrell diminish the impact in their storyline, but the actors are good enough that it didn’t hurt the film that much.

    I would see this movie again, just for the first two acts.

  3. anghus says:

    I loved the whole thing, I generally hate this genre. Loved the twist. I agree though that for many the twist makes or breaks it for a lot if people

  4. movieman says:

    Loved the movie as I’ve stated on earlier threads.
    At its best, it reminded me of Cameron Crowe and James L. Brooks.
    My only (admittedly minor) quibble was with the Tomei character who’s sort of left hanging in the end without being accorded the same redemption as the other characters.
    Glad to see that it held reasonably well in its second weekend.
    It’d be great to see “CSL” evince the sort of legs previous late-ish summer releases like “Julie and Julia” and “40-Year-Old Virgin” had.

  5. Peter says:

    It does remind me of James L Brooks. CSL is a little messy, but unlike How Do You Know, it does have a semblance of a plot.

  6. Kate says:

    What was the 5 minute sequence you refer to? I personally loved the movie, one of the few romance “comedies” lately that actually made me laugh.

  7. chris says:

    I think merely saying there is a twist should get a spoiler warning. If you know it’s there, you are gonna look for it.

  8. berg says:

    the five-minute sequence is obviously the part where Gosling and Stone “fall in love” … very romantic

  9. Joe Leydon says:

    “Kevin Bacon, for me, gives another strong performance this summer in a role he shouldn’t have been cast in. He just unbalances his role in the piece by being… Kevin Bacon.”

    OK, this confuses me. If he gives a strong performance, why should it matter that he is Kevin Bacon? If you are too aware he is Kevin Bacon, doesn’t that mean he didn’t give a strong performance? (And, mind you, this is coming from someone who thinks Kevin Bacon is one of the most under-rated, taken for granted actors of our age.)

  10. David Poland says:

    I like Bacon a lot, Joe.

    But there are roles that call for his level of star power and there are roles in which it is a distraction.

    If Tom Hanks were playing the bartender in this movie, you’d be trying to figure out what the hell he was about to do because he couldn’t just be playing a bartender with 4 lines.

    For me, John Carroll Lynch was just about the right level of familiar for his character in this film… and roughly that same level of celebrity was called for in Bacon’s role.

    And he was good in X-Men:First Class too… but it was like having Walken as a Bond villain and not making him the most batshit crazy scary Bond villain ever. to omuch firepower not to pay it off. And for me, in a movie of lesser known actors, having the biggest star in Bacon’s slot… not a great choice.

  11. Joe Leydon says:

    Can’t say I agree. Using your logic, he would have been all wrong for his role in Nixon/Frost — and maybe even his role A Few Good Men — too.

  12. David Poland says:

    You’re using a different sensibility about what roles mean what. Completely your prerogative.

  13. sdp says:

    I saw this last night and feel similarly. Mildly SPOILERish thoughts to follow, but nothing too specific.

    I agree that the big twist should have come earlier in the film. Too many plot points need to be hit between that reveal and the conclusion to really let the story breathe. Carrell is really the only character that gets a chance to work through the ramifications of that scene in any significant way. Moore (already the most underwritten of the principals) becomes more of an object than she was before. We don’t get much else out of Stone, either. Gosling has one more critical scene with Carrell, but to do his arc justice he probably could have used one or two more. Just one more substantial scene between Stone and Gosling after the big twist could have taken this from a “like” to a “love” for me.

    I would have even liked to see more from Bacon, who I really liked in that role. He never actually seems like a bad guy or skeezy opportunist or something. He just comes across as a decent guy earnestly pursuing what he wants.

  14. chris says:

    I wouldn’t necessarily agree with any of what you’ve said, sdp, but I don’t see how that could work. You’ve said you wanted “more” of a lot of things and “less” of none, and this is not a movie that could support a 150-minute running time.

  15. David Poland says:

    sdp… agree that if it was a bigger role, Bacon might have been an excellent choice. But then, Julianne Moore’s character would need a lot more to do too.

  16. sdp says:

    Chris, just to be clear, I could have definitely done with less of the sitter/son plot in exchange for more of what I mentioned above. The kid didn’t do much for me. I agree that this film would be too bloated at 150 minutes.

    David, I like Bacon even in the limited role because I think having someone with big time movie star presence in that role adds something interesting to the character. He’s basically another suburban office drone, not much different from Carrell’s character, but he’s got that movie star charisma. It makes it easy to see why he might seem like a more exciting option to Moore, even though the two characters are really not all that different.

  17. samguy says:

    *SPOILER* It’s that f—ing graduation scene – that’s why I feel the same way that DP feels. For me, it just broke the fragile reality of the piece. First, there was no indication that the boy was validictorian material to being with (ok, that’s a minor quibble).

    Second, I just don’t see a 14 year old going on about romantic love at a graduation and the principle or a teacher telling him to stop – unless of course they had Tomei go up there and doing her thing!

  18. Melquiades says:

    Kevin Bacon ain’t Tom Hanks. It’s perfectly normal for him to be in a minor supporting role. He’s done it throughout his career.

  19. lujoc says:

    It’s true that the James Brooksian messiness of the film is one of its appealing aspects. At what point does “messiness” become an excuse — or a license or a euphemism — for sloppiness in the writing? I think this is a good point that DP is getting at, and I would add one more idea that no one has yet touched on: the problem with the script is that it’s too repetitive. The reason there’s not enough development of various characters and situations, as people have well noted above, is because, instead, the same situations, emotions, and plot points keep getting repeated over and over again. Everything connected to the son and babysitter stories is the worst culprit in this. That’s the main reason the script needed a few more drafts before it was ready to go. Also, I think we’re being too easy on the ways in which Tomei’s character gets whipsawed from being sympathetic to being a sexual caricature to being a vindictive -itch caricature to being abandoned entirely.

  20. Kyle Eppard says:

    First, hope this isn’t a spoiler for anyone lol but I found it funny that this movie and Emma Stone’s last movie both refer to the scarlet letter. Very funny in my opinion. Second, I will probably need to watch this movie again to really decide how I feel about it, but overall I’m a pretty big fan of it. Thought it contained a lot of funny parts and an interesting story line. So, at this point I’d give it an A!

  21. Marjorie Darjany says:

    I totally agree about the “5 minute scene”, so lovely and touching I had tears in my eyes. I also agree with lujoc about the mishandling of Tomei’s character. It could have been so much better..but maybe they thought they had to make her character cartoonish so we would continue to sympathize with Cal. What a waste of a fabulously talented actress. I walked out of the theater wishing I could have seen a movie as wonderful as the five minute scene.

  22. Dan O. says:

    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 review when you can please!

  23. Robin says:

    Very good review and I agree with most of it. This film could have been a classic. I felt like they must have rushed to film without perfecting the script. The 5 min scene is genius! Then you have the graduation scene which was totally unbelievable. Stone is about as cute as cute can get.

  24. Jen says:

    Although I loved the scene where Jacob and Hannah fall in love, I think the last bar scene between Jacob and Cal — when Jacob is hoping to get Cal’s blessing — was the best of the film. Absolutely loved the movie overall!

  25. Annie says:

    I get the reviewer’s point and I too thought the Hannah/ Jake scene was amazing. As a lover of laughter, I know humor is the real way to a man’s heart. Although I get the casting for obvious physical reasons, I’m getting sick of seeing Julianne Moore doing this mid-life housewife crisis over and over and over again.

    P.S. to Rob: I wouldn’t worry about Emma Stone’s career. Having just discovered her in The Help and this movie, she is luminous, charming, smart and quirky. Catherine Keener was never an “it” girl – just a good second string character actress and Kate Hudson is more of a celebrity than an actress. Emma Stone is kind of making me say, Mila, Olivia, Blake… who?

  26. James W says:

    Nice review! I can definitely feel some familiarity here with what I experienced when I saw the film. I honestly thought, like you, that the B and C plots were far far better than the A. Gosling and Stone were great together and when the twist finally hit the film started to take a turn for the great.

    I felt like it got awkward in parts. Mostly due to Carrell doing meaningful dramatic scenes with no jokes in them. It just didn’t seem to fit with what I was used to.

    Otherwise a good film!

  27. paul Hennig says:

    I felt the writing was very uneven, ranging from really fine to way over the top and unreal, like wandering around not knowing where to go next. The writer going for too much and losing crediblity.

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