Tuesday, 30 August 2011

“That’s your big move?”

Crazy, Stupid, Love.: directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa; written by Dan Fogelman

There’s a climatic in Crazy, Stupid, Love when all the major characters end up in a showdown of sorts. It depends on two gags – the first an awkward, and vaguely uncomfortable, attempt at a teenage girl attempting a seduction and the second on a revelation that shifts the relationship between two of the characters. It’s the point in the movie when my sister, who I watched it with, turns to me and says, “This movie is ridiculous”. And, even amidst the well intended charm the film hopes to evoke I couldn’t help but agree with her.
The first shot of the film is quite telling taking into account what ends up being one of the main conceits of the film. A couple, Cal and Emily, is at a restaurant and before we see them we see their feet. The lady is in elegant heels, the man in clunky sneakers. They’re getting a divorce, and as we subsequently move through the typical expository dialogue to establish the how and the why, I keep on wondering what that first shot of the feet was about. We switch characters a few minutes into the movie when we switch to a bar where the suave Jacob is attempting to pick up a generally uninterested Hannah. There’s a slow-motion close-up of his very slick shoes as he walks over to her. When a chance meeting puts Cal and Jacob together and the lothario begins helping the schmuck the shoes are what he begins with. Cal’s wife may have cheated on him, but it’s only because he’s become so lazy in his appearance and general attitude. No one wants to be saddled with someone with a lack of zest of life, and even worse no sense of style – it’s time for him to reclaim his manhood, i.e. start looking “good”.
It’s just the beginning of a curious running theme throughout Crazy, Stupid, Love.. There’s a scene in the film where Jacob says that men won the battle of the sexes the moment that women started dancing on a pole for exercise. The statement is less curious for any wit to be found in it, and more the fact that he says it immediately before a scene where he stands naked in a room for no ostensible reason (see photo #1) other than objectification, or...hell, I have no idea. Not that I care to indict the film for questionable morals, but it’s the sort of silliness which pervades it that makes me questions where Fogelman’s head was when he penned this. Emily is excused from her dalliance, and Cal endures a makeover that isn’t necessarily the root of their reconciliation (oh, spoiler alert, they reconcile) but obviously doesn’t hurt it. There’s a sense that he tries to backpedal on this oddness by having Jacob have a turnaround when he meets that “right girl” who probes him to open. He confesses to Cal towards the end that all the while he was trying to turn Cal into him (i.e. Jacob) he was turning into Cal. It’s that ostensible moment where we realise even the most suave of playboys is a warm, cuddly teddy bear underneath. As if.
There’s a striking sense that had the focus been explicitly on one of the two major romances (Ryan/Emma or Steve/Julianne), the latter in particular, we might have had a richer film. The older duo succeed in creating a couple that seems lived-in and yet occasional fresh. Because of the ensemble nature, though, they’re forced to ensure that everyone gets roped into the hijinks which makes the craziness forced, the silliness thin and the love inauthentic. The cast is game, sure – Julianne and Ryan are the best-in-show – and it’s so sincere in the way it closes (well, it tries hard to be) I feel like an irate parent for chiding it. Still, for all its sincerity, the ultimate denouement plays out as especially low-stakes building up a rise that never occurs.
(Really, though, the big reveal about a certain someone’s praternity is especially limp. Not only would it have been a random inclusion of a certain if it were not so, the hair was dead giveaway. I’m actually a bit surprised that Jacob didn’t end up being the son of David Linderhagen. They seemed like doppelgangers in some scenes. )


TomS said...

I sort of enjoyed this. Some sequences I liked a lot, especially with Emma Stone. I do agree with you about some of the plot holes. A few too many surprise twsts, and an unnecessary subplot or two.

Dan O. said...

Good Review Andrew! 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.

Jose said...

The hair yes! Now they need to team up again but in a good movie!
The trailer for this one is still ace though, the movie hell no.

Paolo said...

Comedies this year have their different merits and flavours, unlike other years or even half decades when every comedy felt the same. I loved this movie's style and even tolerated the Restoration-style paternity spoiler.

But then Our Idiot Brother came along erased all my love for Crazy, Stupid Love. I'm nor sure if this is me not being confident with my own tastes or if this movie came in at the wrong time of the year for me or if this movie was just a movie of the week after all.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

tom yeah, i didn't hate it. (C grade films are worthless for me) and i think gosling and moore in particularly were quite winsome.

dan it's weird how it tries to unconventional but still ends up coming off as conventional.

jose they SHOULD team up. i love seeing julianne smiling.

paolo good lord, this Restoration-style paternity spoiler" made me burst out laughing. i don't know why. i'm not against seeing it again, but i still don't think it's very good, holistically.