One would think that with all the years that THE OFFICE has been on the air and given his spotty film record, America would be sick and tired of Steve Carell’s brand of humor. After all, it didn’t take very long for us to get over Zach Galifianakis and he’s really only been widely known for the past 2 to 3 years. For me, however, Carell continues to fascinate me because he continues to be funny and his humor doesn’t feel as one-note as Galifianakis’ comedy. CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE features the best performance I have seen thus far from Steve Carell. But if you’re one of those people who doesn’t care for Carell, the film bowls you over with a wonderful supporting cast and a delightfully wacky narrative that ends up making CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE one of this summer’s best films.

CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE has a great opening scene where we meet a married couple, Emily (Julianne Moore) and Cal (Steve Carell) Weaver, who have long-ago lost the passion and excitement in their relationship. As they prepare to order their meal at a nice restaurant filled with well-dressed and seemingly happy couples, Emily announces to her husband that she wants a divorce and that she has been cheating on him with a co-worker named David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon). So begins the movie. Distraught, Cal immediately moves out of the house and into an apartment. He soon becomes a regular at a fancy looking bar/lounge where he sits alone at the bar night after night and talks to no one and anyone about how shitty his life has become. After yet another lonely evening at the bar lamenting about his miserable life, Cal’s troubles are overheard by Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling), a well-dressed, well-groomed, ultimate ladykiller. Jacob frequents the same bar as Cal and he finally decides to help the guy out. Jacob offers to reinvent Cal and turn his life around with the ladies. With Jacob’s help, Cal changes his wardrobe, haircut, and develops his tomcat instincts with the ladies. Before long, Cal is as irresistible to women as Jacob is, which results in a short-lived relationship with an older lady (Marisa Tomei) that he meets at the bar. However, despite his new success with women, Cal still loves his wife and wants to be back with her. He finally decides to get her back, but of course, there are a few obstacles that he must overcome first. For one, Cal’s children’s babysitter is infatuated with him, which is problematic because his own son is in love with the babysitter. Also, Emily is still sort of involved with David Lindhagen and that’s a whole other problem. There is yet another subplot involving a young law student (Emma Stone) who encounters Jacob, but the less I say about that the better.

CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE is not a hilarious movie on the level of BRIDESMAIDS and that may put some people off, especially for those expecting the irreverent, awkward humor Steve Carell is known for in THE OFFICE. Carell is much more subdued in this film, but without sacrificing his style of humor. In fact, with this film, Carell has refined his talents to where he seamlessly weaves humor and drama into his performance to create a deeper and more well-rounded character. Here, Carell has moved on from simply performing a skit or being a one-joke character with the sole intention of making the audience laugh. You laugh with Cal Weaver, but you also sympathize and feel sorry for him. The character takes the audience on a journey where he learns that in order to keep a marriage, he has to put a lot of effort into making it work. Throughout the film, we witness all the little transformations the character undergoes to ultimately become a better person. I’m sure you’ve seen many films in which the main character suddenly, without any reason, realizes that he or she loves X or he or she discovers what it is they are supposed to do to attain their goal. The film never explains how that character reaches that point. It just happens without any plausible explanation. CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE doesn’t make that mistake and you buy into the Cal Weaver’s transformation from type of character to another.

The film’s other main star is Ryan Gosling, who plays hipster/metro Don Juan, Jacob Palmer. Gosling has been on a meteoric rise of late (BLUE VALENTINE and the upcoming DRIVE and THE IDES OF MARCH both receiving great buzz) and this film is his first stab at comedy. He should do more of it because he does a fantastic job holding his own against Steve Carell. It takes a lot of courage for any actor to play a perfectly handsome and suave ladies’ man who knows he is awesome. The actor better hope and pray that his casting for the role was right and that the screenplay and director (and the cinematographer who will make him look good) don’t do him a disservice. Gosling shines onscreen with sharp, inventive, and funny dialogue that sounds like something the Old Spice man would say to ladies. Jacob Palmer is a one-dimensional character at first and I think that was intentional on the filmmakers’ part. Palmer represents the ideal man for Cal Weaver. We know absolutely nothing about Palmer other than what he presents himself as, which is the perfect bachelor that every bachelor strives to become. As the film progresses, more of the character is revealed and, like Cal Weaver, Palmer also undergoes his own transformation.

With such strong performances from the two main actors, its hard to believe that the film is further bolstered by an equally wonderful supporting cast in Julianne Moore, Kevin Bacon (as unfortunate as it was that Bernie Madoff depleted Bacon’s fortune, audiences are now fortunate to see him in multiple films this year), and especially Emma Stone. One of the best moments in the film features Stone as she celebrates taking the Bar Exam and finally meets Jacob Palmer. Its amazing to see an actress as young as she possessing such great comic timing. I have not seen EASY A, which she stars in, but after seeing her performance here, I’ll be making a point to check it out immediately.

CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE pulls off a type of comedy storytelling popularized by Billy Wilder. In Wilder’s films, you have multiple, seemingly unconnected characters, each with separate plots, that interconnect in zany and hilarious ways. Many films attempt to tell these kinds of stories, but very few succeed. They usually fail for a number of reasons. Chief among them being that they are either not funny or the plots reach completely unbelievable levels that end up losing the audience. CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE’s narratives are carefully laid out in an unpredictable manner that is filled with pleasantly surprising moments for the audience. What’s more, the film strikes a nice balance between comedic moments and dramatic ones. This film isn’t the raunchy sort of comedy that we’ve been seeing over the past couple of months (BRIDESMAIDS, BAD TEACHER, and HORRIBLE BOSSES). It’s contains a more meaningful story that uses comedy to flesh out its serious themes.

In a summer that hasn’t been full of many good surprises, CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE is a rarity. Even though I read the film’s good reviews, I remained skeptical as to how good it actually would be. This film is a strong sophomore effort from filmmakers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS) and I cannot wait to see what else these guys have in store for us.

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