The love movie, just like stories about the subject in music or literature, has been done to death. It’s hard to knock it though, since everyone at some point (save for the sociopaths in the house) has experienced love. The passion. The sweetness. Late night talks. Late night escapades. The chemical high of the first few months. And because we’ve all been there, we can spot a fake tale from a mile away. Real life Love isn’t formulaic like the romantic comedies dumped into cinemas every February 14. It’s the most personal, individual experience there is, save for the loss of a loved one, and few stories about Love can capture that lighting in a bottle. Here’s a film that captured it on celluloid.
Cal (Steve Carrell) is drunk again, telling his tale of being cuckolded to anyone within earshot like he’s in a country western song, not a swanky bar. After looking on as Cal spends several nights of sucking down vodka cranberries and awkwardly hitting on women two decades his junior, super fly ladies man Jacob (Ryan Gosling) calls the jilted husband over to give him a proverbial slap to the face (later he’ll do so literally with regularity). Jacob takes the wounded birdie under his wing to unleash Cal’s inner GQ, teaching him the tricks of the trade that (surprise) don’t include mentioning your kids or the guy your wife is sleeping with.
Jacob’s Mr. Miyagi-style mentoring boosts Cal’s confidence (not to mention sexual experience), but it’s not enough to make him forget the girl he fell in love with at 15 – his wife. And Jacob the predator becomes prey when his game is picked apart by the earnest redhead Hannah (Emma Stone). Promises of shagging flip to sharing, leaving Jacob’s system of suave bravado in pieces like he’s a bomb from The Hurt Locker.
A tale of unrequited love, love lost, and love found, the film is about earnest love no matter how funny, awkward, or painful. In remaining sincere and investing in its characters, the film earns its keep and the entire cast is doing a grand waltz with each other without missing a beat: Steve Carell will have you in fits of laughter only to skewer you with pathos, and Gosling seduces as the charmer, then disarms you with his openness as he tells Hannah about his parents. Carell and Gosling have a warm chemistry not often seen between male actors with such an age gap. There’s also an undeniable funfetti glow surrounding Gosling and Stone: Stone’s penchant for wearing her emotions on her sleeve shows her new suitor how to be human, not just Mr. Sex Machine. With the bar browser persona slain, Jacob and Hannah bring out the best in one another.
Love doesn’t come through gaming girls at bars. Magic doesn’t happen between the sheets. Love doesn’t happen when the clothes come off. It happens when we get emotionally naked. When we’re stripped down deeper than a TSA body scanner and someone accepts us – that’s what love is. Instead of making fun of such a notion, Crazy, Stupid, Love. disseminates it with laughter, pain, and the truly touching.
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