Friday, September 7, 2012
What the Hell ?!? Friday - Yet Another Movie Review
CRAZY, STUPID LOVE
I suppose CRAZY, STUPID LOVE is a chick flick. Isn't anything with LOVE in the title a chick flick? But I'm a guy, and I really like this movie a lot. When I tell you that it's the best romantic comedy I've ever seen, that's actually pretty low praise, since it's a genre I generally avoid. Frex, though Jennifer Aniston is cute and adorable, If she's in a movie, I know to just flip the channel.
Not so with Rene Zellweger and Julianne Moore. Rene made BRIGIT JONES'S DIARY memorable, though the real delight for me was in seeing Colin Firth kick Hugh Grant's scrawny British ass. Grant's mere presence is enough to spoil an entire evening for me. However, anything with Julianne Moore in it is worth a look; but even she couldn't save the terminally awful NINE MONTHS. That time waster also starred Hugh Grant, who I generally refer to as "that annoying British guy," and IIRC, there was no ass-kicking to bring even a slight positive to this dismal experience. But I digress.
CRAZY,STUPID LOVE - not a yuck-it-up comedy by any means - is a somewhat convoluted story, and, as such, relies rather transparently on coincidence. But that's OK. Coincidence is a terrible way to wrap things up, but it's a perfectly fine way to get things going. And - taken individually - none of the coincidences is much of a stretch.
Julianne Moore plays Emily Watson, who drops a bomb shell on her unsuspecting husband Cal (Steve Carell) when she tells him she wants a divorce. Even worse, she had sex with David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon.) I'll put Julianne Moore up against anyone - even Diane Lane - in a realistic portrayal of the wife who strays. She proved that long ago in SHORT CUTS. And who better than the FOURTY YEAR OLD VIRGIN guy to play a wronged and utterly baffled husband. In short, the casting is perfect. And it doesn't stop there. Ryan Gosling as Jacob and Emma Stone as Cal and Emily's 25-year-old daughter Hannah are also perfect. As are Jonah Bobo as the 13-year-old middle child, Robbie, and Analeigh Tipton as Jessica Riley, the confused 17-year-old girl who is the object of Robbie's forlorn affection.
They all display terrific acting chops. But what underlines the brilliance of the casting is that Stone and Bobo actually look like they could be Moore's kids.
The story is tangled, but completely (well - almost) believable. According to IMDB reviews it avoids falling into genre cliches. Even the ending is hopeful, rather than happily-ever-after. In fact, though this movie relies on situations to get the story moving and interject some poignant and/or amusing plot points, it's really about the characters. A strong story always is. You feel Cal's pain. And Emily's. And Hannah's. And Robbie's and Jessica's. And even Jacob's - the cool guy who at first look seems to be feeling no pain whatsoever.
The acting is superlative from everyone in the cast. This makes the characters real, and draws you in so that you actually care about and root for them - even Jacob, an utterly amoral womanizer. The story telling also draws you in, and as you get to know the characters, they become real. Each of them has a back story that you would like to know more about.
The mood shifts from pain and jealousy to light-hearted flirtation to poignace to anger and disappointment. But it all is done with precise timing and a careful sensitivity to what the characters are experiencing - or, at some times - enduring. A long, quasi-intimate scene with Jacob and Hannah illustrates this wonderfully, and might have the best single moment in the whole story.
Bacon's part is little more than a cameo, but he executes it to perfection. Ditto Marisa Tomei, who plays a desperate, difficult, double-edged, not quite over-the-top roll that I won't give away. These two have the presence to capture the scenes that they are in. But the one who runs away with the show is Jonah Bobo as love-lorn Robbie.
These characters are all fully-formed, three dimensional people. They make mistakes, get back up and keep going, and cause each other pain without ever meaning to. It's a lot like life. But the struggle is worth it if you know what you care about and never give up. Most especially if it involves your soul mate.
So, I'd say this movie is worth a look; even if, like me, you're a grizzled old guy who doesn't usually enjoy romantic comedies.
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Julie and Julia