Saturday, July 30, 2011

Crazy, Stupid, Love

MPAA (PG-13) CNS/USCCB (O) Roger Ebert (3 stars) Fr Dennis (3 ½ stars)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB review -
Roger Ebert’s review -

Crazy, Stupid, Love (directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, written by Dan Fogelman) is a good if mis-rated if very painful/funny romantic comedy for married forty-somethings with families.  I say mis-rated because while I _do_ understand why many parents would want their teens (and perhaps even certain tweens) to see this movie, I do believe that an R-rating (requiring that minors see it with their parents) would probably be more appropriate.  The language alone would justify the R-rating to say nothing of many “separated/divorcing parents acting stupid” situations.

But then the “separated/divorcing parents” situations are _exactly_ what makes the movie quite surprising, indeed compelling.  Ultimately unswayed, the CNS/USCCB gives the movie unsurprisingly an “O” (morally offensive rating).  Still there is a gentleness to this movie despite its many embarrassing situations that I do believe deserve consideration by families especially those that may be experiencing some problems (and the CNS/USCCB does recognize positive elements to this movie as well, even as it ultimately goes back to it's "O" conclusion.  So parents, I'm saying please read the CNS/USCCB review as well).

So, what’s the movie about?  The movie begins with 40-something married couple Cal (played by Steve Carell) and Emily (played by Julianne Moore) finishing dinner on a night-out.  Cal asks Emily what she wants for dessert.  She answers that she’s trying to figure out what she wants.  He announces that he’d like a slice of apple pie, she announces that she’d like a divorce.

The drive home is awkward.  Emily talks mostly in tears as she is driving about how they’ve drifted apart, and that yes, she’s gone to bed with a man in her office David Linghagan (played by Kevin Bacon).  Cal remains mostly stunned and silent, until after being pressed by Emily to say _something_ he declares that he’d just like to drop-out of the car, opens the door and does so (fortunately, they were near home, going rather slow on a residential street ...).  Now stunned herself, she stops the car, goes out to him as he brushes himself off.  He tells her that he’ll move out that night, and get his things as soon as he finds some kind of an apartment.

They come home where 17-year old babysitter Jessica (played by Analeigh Tipton) is waiting for them.  She’s had a quite a night as well, as she accidently caught Cal and Emily's 13-year-old son Robbie (played by Jonah Bobo) touching himself (Emily and Cal also had a smaller 8-or-so year old daughter) whereupon Robbie confessed that he was touching himself while he thought of her.  The strangeness of her evening is trumped however by Cal and Emily’s announcement to her that they are getting a divorce.

Why would they tell her, of all people, first?  Well they were both in shock.  And besides someone had to drive Jessica home, and it would explain why Cal was doing so, since Cal is leaving the house anyway... In the car, it becomes clear that Jessica is not only stunned that Cal and Emily are getting a divorce but that she’s also kind of had a crush on Cal.  Cal doesn’t respond to this at all and probably for two reasons: One, he’s not an idiot (and is basically a good man, as is _everybody_ in this story as we progressively learn). But also two, he was in shock about what happened at dinner with his wife.  So he just drops her off and her parents house and heads off, to a bar.

At the bar, he first runs into local playboy Jacob (played by Ryan Gosling), who the audience had already seen in action in a previous scene in which he struck-out with one young lady, Hannah (played by Emma Stone) and rebounding, scored with someone else.  Jacob is everything that Cal is not. 

Trying to drown his sorrows in the succeeding days, Cal goes to the bar a few more times always to run into Jacob there as well.  Jacob is scoring and Cal is moaning.  Finally Jacob gets irritated with Cal’s rather loud and repetitive complaints about how his wife left him (and was sleeping with another guy).  So Jacob calls Cal over.  He first reminds him that thanks to his loud complaints everybody in that bar probably knows more about Cal’s life than they should.  Then, he offers to help him “recover his manhood.”  Why would he do that?  Jacob himself says that Cal reminds him of someone he knew.  In any case, Jacob pulls Cal out of his funk, gets him a haircut, advises him on buying some new clothes, and teaches him a few lines.  Soon Cal is starting to score with the women at that bar as well.

Very good.  Why would there be _anything_ redeeming about this movie at all?  It’s what follows.  There _are_ a fair number of twists and a good number of awkward situations.  But as the dust settles at the end, EVERYONE HAS BEEN CHASTENED FOR THEIR SINS (often initially in surprising ways, but when one thinks about it, not all that surprising) BUT JUST AS IMPORTANTLY EVERYONE IS STILL STANDING and ARGUABLY HAPPY and _in their proper state_. 

I’ve seen a whole bunch of Steve Carell movies over the years including 40 Year Old Virgin, Evan Almighty, Get Smart, Dinner for Schmucks, Dispicable Me, Date Night and now this one.  ALL OF THEM were fundamentally _gentle_, even when in pretty much _all of them_, Steve Carell _plays the fool_ for the others.  I _really like_ Steve Carell’s stuff.  I like the gentleness and I like fundamentally positive message of his movies: we may often be weak, we may make mistakes, but that we are fundamentally good and certainly redeemable. Good job Steve and good job rest of the cast and crew!  And yes, the other performances by Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Kevin Bacon and even the babysitter Analiah Tipton and Marisa Tomei (as one of 13-year-old Robbie's school teachers) were _all_ good to excellent as well.


Given some of the controversy surrounding one of the subplots in this film involving (off-screen) teenage sexting, I was wondering if someone like Chris Rock should redo this movie in a couple of years, perhaps even having a white wife (and hence mixed race children).  I say this because the people who end up suffering the most as a result of morality laws tend to be black men. As of a few years ago, there were black male minors in jail for having been caught with white girlfriends in sexually compromising situations for which it'd be next to _impossible_ to believe white male minors would find themselves serving time.

I personally think that sexting is unbelievably reckless (and yes, sinful). But given technology and teenage hormones, I find it to be almost inevitable (among teens). But it horrifies to me to hear of teenage lives destroyed by something (and again, often enough _black teenage lives_ destroyed by something) that wasn't intended to destroy anyone.

In any case, I liked this movie, definitely_not_ for its sexting. Rather, I liked it because, as in the case of many Steve Carell movies, at the end of this movie EVERYONE was left standing, and EVERYONE was basically happy. There were no "goats", no "villains." Carell finds/makes movies like this over and over again. And that I believe is a wonderful thing!

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