All cringe, all the time.
“It’s been a really long year,” Emily (Julianne Moore) says to Cal (Steve Carell), at the end of Crazy, Stupid Love. The year in question has seen Emily and Cal separate following her unfaithfulness, which leads to Cal’s serial unfaithfulness, given a big assist by Jacob (Ryan Gosling), who decides one day to take this sad, rumpled, middle-aged man whom he met in a bar under his wing and teach him how to be a womanizer. (The first thing to do, apparently, is not wear New Balance shoes or shop at The Gap.) Meanwhile, Emily and Cal’s kids, Robbie and Molly, deal with their parents’ separation by masturbating and dancing in front of the TV, respectively. Robbie’s babysitter Jessica just happens to walk in on him doing the deed, which is kind of ironic because Robbie tells her afterwards that he thinks about her when he does it. It’s even more awkward when Robbie later discovers that Jessica is in fact in love with his dad.
There’s more, but we won’t spoil the convoluted mess that is Crazy, Stupid Love for you if you missed it in theaters but plan on catching it on DVD. We spent the movie alternating between these two thoughts: Why did all of these A-list actors (including Emma Stone, Marisa Tomei and Kevin Bacon) sign on to this movie, and how much worse would it be if they hadn’t? The coincidences are outrageous, the contrivances numerous. The most profound thing the movie appears to be saying about love is that it hurts. But Nazareth told us that thirty five years ago, and they did it in under four minutes.
Crazy, Stupid Love ends with a big set piece involving a middle school graduation where Cal steps out of the audience to interrupt his son Robbie’s salutatorian speech. Carrell has always been good at making audiences laugh and cringe at the same time, but this scene is all cringe. Robbie spews cynicism about life and love as only a jilted thirteen year old can, so Cal must reaffirm for his son — and his estranged wife, and the viewer, lest anyone fear this movie about things going wrong won’t make them all right in the end — that there is such a thing as soul mates and that loving people sometimes means hating them too but that’s okay. Robbie, emboldened by his father’s sudden recovery, professes his love again for babysitter Jessica, also in the audience. Later, Jessica rewards Robbie for his bullheaded but delusional romantic pursuit by giving him naked pictures of herself originally intended for her dad. Yes, it’s that kind of movie.
The best part, by far, was finding out during the credits that the dopey-looking guy who Emma Stone was originally with was in fact Josh Groban. That’s not saying much.
Our favorite remark from Metacritic’s page for Crazy, Stupid Love comes from the Chicago Tribune‘s Michael Phillips: “This is the ‘Babel’ or ‘Crash’ of ensemble romantic comedies.” I think we can all agree that the romcom genre does not need its own Babel or Crash.