Crazy, Stupid, Love: They get the stupid part right
Crazy, Stupid, Love is the latest attempt by mainstream moviemakers to tell a funny story about the serious issue of a marriage in crisis. In this case, the 25-year union of Steve Carell and Julianne Moore, parents with successful but unfulfilling mid-management jobs, a house in a leafy suburb, and comfortable habits which have settled into dull routines.Moore has a fling with a co-worker, tells her husband she wants a divorce, and he responds by hanging out at a pick-up bar. The sum total of their problems, expressed in an almost throwaway bit of dialogue, amounts to boredom, with each other and themselves. If they were in couples therapy, this would be the starting point of multi-week sessions of intense and enlightening communication, a brand of spirited talk that in itself may save their marriage. But in this movie, indeed in the major studio universe of quick fixes and happy endings, nothing as penetrating and revealing as real dialogue is ever uttered, real emotion ever expressed, or a concentrated grappling with the actual roots of marital discontent ever explored.
Instead, Crazy, Stupid, Love piles implausibility upon absurdity, sappy joke upon saccharine resolution, ludicrous scene upon preposterous outcome. This is not to say the movie isn’t funny. But the people who made it, the writers, directors, producers and the entire corporate-industrial entertainment juggernaut which caters to our needs of instant gratification—from TV to films to music to junk food—don’t just pander to the audience they’ve downgraded from idiot to moron, they celebrate it. There is a certain glee in the way these films avoid sustained character development or logical plot progression, in their embrace of the unmotivated montage or the momentum-stalling fight scene, and in the trust they place in their targeted demographic’s inability to care about any of the above.
To enjoy Crazy, Stupid, Love requires a sense of prolonged detachment from the real world in spite of the movie’s insistence it is engaging with real world issues. Ignore how it is possible for Carell’s middle class character to afford his new designer wardrobe and the expensive drinks he buys for the ladies in the bar. Don’t ask why no one notices he has crept into his former backyard at night to keep up the lawn and the shrubbery. Refuse to trouble yourself over the fact the young woman played by Emma Stone can’t see what a louse her law classmate boyfriend (Josh Groban) is even though it is blindingly obvious to everyone else. And please, please don’t be concerned that the entire third act of the film relies on a contrivance so hard to swallow you’ll still be choking as the credits roll.
The fact the movie is somehow watchable is due to the cast, hired for either their professional comic timing, as in the case of Carell, Moore and Stone, or the surprise at seeing them play against type, as with Kevin Bacon as Moore’s disrespected new boyfriend and Ryan Gosling as a muscle-toned stud who applies the playboy makeover to Carell. Gosling and Stone do manage to convey a few centimeters of depth in their awkward pick-up scene, suggesting, depressively, the yards of interesting material the filmmakers avoid in favor of expedient catharsis.
A cheery and simplistic reconciliation is the intended finale here, no surprise for a film in which divorce is mentioned in the first scene but never the thought of marriage counseling, which might be the first stop in the agonizing process of saving a 25-year commitment that produced three children, two careers, a house and hopes for a long empty nest future. To not even bring it up may be crazy and stupid, not to mention insulting and impossible to believe, but it has very little to do with love.