Monday, August 15, 2011

Road Trip–Crazy Stupid Love

It was off to the movies again this Saturday.  This time it was The Girlfriend and I and just as it about 90 per cent of the time when we go together, it’s a ladies choice.  And her choice this day was the Steve Carell film, Crazy Stupid Love.

Picture 41IMG_1077Since it was a return trip to the Reading Valley Plaza, I can pretty much dispense with most of the travelogue portion.  I had already figured out before hand that we were going to be viewing the film in one of the tiny cigar box auditoriums in the back left hand side of the Cinema, just as we did on this occasion. when we saw Cowboys & Aliens.  But did I say cigar box?  This one was more like a sardine can.  I counted less than a hundred seats in the place, and there are probably less than half of them in which you would really want to sit and view a movie.  We were in Screening Room 9. 
And I really have to remember to drag my better camera along.  The pictures I took with my I-phone really weren’t worth a squat.  As you can see, there was too much glare from the light on the sign (or there was until I photo-shopped it.  Let it not be said that I’m not creative), and the interior shots were way too dark although it wasn’t really that dark inside.  But I post them here anyway to give you some idea of the size of the thing.  But thankfully, there was no little brat climbing up and down off of her mother’s lap like there was the last time.  In fact, it was a rather peaceful evening as far as any theatrical disturbances go, and one is always grateful of that regardless of the quality of the film itself.  So was Crazy Stupid Love what the title implied it would be, or was it just stupid?
It was a bit stupid and maybe towards the end a teensy bit crazy.  But not in a good way.  It just wasn’t that good of a film, despite it’s lofty 76 per cent critic approval and 85 per cent audience approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes
It probably helps you’re attitude towards this film  if you’re a really big Steve Carell fan, but I was not born of that ilk.  I like him well enough, but in every film of his I’ve seen he basically plays the big hapless  shmuck.  His shtick gets tiresome after a while, and Carell’s absolute totally straight faced deadpan portrayal  of Maxwell Smart in Get Smart was an abomination that made that particular film a major disappointment for me..  Playing such an unlikable shmuck like Cal that he plays in this film, doesn’t help to make the heart grow fonder
But my low regard for this film wasn’t entirely his fault.  Cal’s wife Emily, played by Julianne Moore wasn’t particularly likable either.  When your husband asks you what do you want for dessert and your answer is “a divorce” it doesn’t exactly endear you to the audience, even one as small as the non-crowd inhabiting Screening Room 9.  Nor does it make you laugh either.  I suppose that Cal jumping out of a moving car shortly thereafter was meant to draw some guffaws, but it doesn’t.
Unfortunately for Cal and Emily, upon returning home, their son, Robbie and the baby sitter Jessica quickly find out the happy news:  She’ll be babysitting for either Cal or Emily but not both at the same time.  Truthfully though, I almost wish they had revolved the whole film around Robbie and Jessica because they have the funniest, most sympathetic plotline..  Even before Cal and Emily arrive home, we discover that Robbie, who is 13 has a giant crush and has fallen hard for Jessica who is 17.  And we also find out that when you’re discovered playing fantasyland  by the babysitter, it’s not such a good idea to go into details about what was on your mind that made you raise the flagpole in the first place.  But while Jessica is busy trying to dampen  Robbie’s not so subtle ardor, she is carrying the torch for his father, Cal.   I guess that’s Crazy Love any way you look at it.
Cal tries drowning his sorrows at a local tavern, but does it verbally and loud enough so everybody in the bar soon knows he is getting a divorced and that his wife slept with David Lindhagen.  So ladies man Jacob, played by Ryan Gosling, who is as sick of listening to Cal whine as we are, and who takes home a different woman practically every night,  decides to take Cal under his wing to become Mr. Miyagi to Cal’s Daniel San.  It’s bachelor makeover time, and it isn’t long before Cal is picking up women almost as well as his mentor. 
Of course, you have to crawl down the runway before you can fly and Cal’s early attempts end in failure, until he hooks up with schoolteacher Kate played with hilarious abandon by Marisa Tomei, who always seems to rise way above the material. 
And let's not forget  Hannah played by Emma Stone whom I absolutely loved in Easy A which came out almost a year ago.  Here, she plays a law student who may or may not be in love with another lawyer, but definitely thinks he will celebrate her passage of the bar exam by proposing.  At the outset of the film, she is one of Jacob’s few failures, and is smart enough to see through his phony suave aura, and cliché pick up lines.  Then, to our chagrin,  she disappears for a long long  time until the plot needs her some more.  When Hannah reemerges, it is some time later  and when the lawyer boyfriend fails to propose marriage, she heads straight for the bar to find Jacob and become a one night stand.  Jacob, for his part, seems more than happy to oblige.  Do  you need for me to tell you what happens next?  I didn’t think so.
There are about three really big problems with this film that it never overcomes.  Problem one is that we end up not caring about the main story, which is the break-up of Cal and Emily’s marriage, and the continual “will they or won’t they get back together” that is the bulk of the running time.  It would have been nice, just this once, for Carell not to be such a doofus.  He spends way too time moping around and only becomes partially interesting when he is given a makeover by Jacob.  The problem with that is, now instead of a shmuck, he’s a jerkoff just like Jacob is.
Likewise, Emily fares no better.  We never fully understand her reasons for the divorce and for screwing the guy where she works except that she was bored with her life.  All well and good, but while Cal accepts his share of the blame for the failure of their marriage, she never really seems to come to terms with the part her own infidelity played in the disintegration.  So it’s difficult to root for either one, except that we do keep hoping that Cal will grow a pair of balls and take matters into his own hands.  But he never really does, and is controlled more by the circumstances of the script than anything else.
Problem two is Jacob.  Ryan Gosling is excellent as the ladies man so this is no knock on him.  He in fact, reminds me in many ways of Jerry Lewis’s alter ego Buddy Love in the original Nutty Professor.  We’re fascinated by him, but despise his treatment of the woman all  at the same time.  So having spent the majority of the film making us love/hate him, we are suddenly suppose to switch gears and just love him?  The change is so sudden, that we don’t really believe it.  We can’t.  Maybe if the film were called Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde but I saw no mysterious secret formula’s being served at the bar. Maybe if we had seen more of that aspect of the plot developing and spent more time  with Jacob when this change of heart is taking place we might have bought into it.  But the script couldn’t allow that to happen because it would……..well that brings us to problem three.
Problem three is that the film depends way too much on some major improbable, almost impossible,  coincidences that I cannot relate to you here.  The first one, involving the Marisa Tomei character didn’t bother me too much.  I was too busy laughing (when Kate is on the screen is one of the few times the film makes you laugh)  and gave the movie a pass on that one.  But when the really “big reveal” comes towards the end, the absurdity of it, and the astronomical odds against it  are just way too overwhelming to give it a pass.  We are too stunned to find it funny, and too put out by how ridiculous it is.  If this were a whacked out comedy like The Hangover or Harold and Kumar, it wouldn’t matter so much.  Those films are built from start to finish on the absurdness of improbability.   But this film seems to want take a higher road than that and to send a message, despite the fact that it purports to only be a romantic comedy.  And any good will we might have had earlier on is lost in one big swoop.  Even The Girlfriend who was with me for this trip, found it to be a bit much, although she liked the film overall more than I did.
The bottom line is that the film is sweet and entertaining when focusing on it’s subplots revolving around Robbie and Jessica, and when Emma Stone and Marisa Tomei are up to bat, the movie absolutely sparkles.  But those moments are way too few and far between, with the focus being on the main story line that never gets over the hump.
Now putting everything on the old Clyde’s Movie Palace Scale, I have no choice but to give Crazy, Stupid, Love, a not so crazy grade of C.   And if you haven’t checked out Emma Stone’s Easy A, now would be a good time to do so.

When we left the theater I grabbed this screenshot of the main concession stand.  Notice the huge painting on the wall.  It’s the coolest thing about Reading Valley Cinema’s so I thought I would share.



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