After a number of successful roles in independent films, Ryan Gosling has, this year, appeared to begin to broach the mainstream, carefully maintaining a balance between both the populist and the critically acclaimed. The release of both the slow-burning thriller Drive and the romantic comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love typifies this balance, further showcasing Gosling’s considerable talents.
Crazy, Stupid, Love features an impressive cast: starring Steve Carell, Julianne Moore and Emma Stone alongside the aforementioned Gosling. Unlike the more usual, and thus often dull, romantic comedies, Crazy, Stupid, Love features the breakdown of a married relationship and the couple’s subsequent attempts to rediscover their love for one another: this couple are older than your typical rom-com couple, and are fairly realistically represented.
Cal (Carell), believing his relationship with Emily (Moore) to be solid, is surprised by her shock admission at both infidelity and her desire for a divorce. Cal, frequenting a bar, regularly and loudly bemoans the current state of his relationship, attracting the attention of Jacob (Gosling), a self-acknowledged charmer, who experiences considerable success with women. Jacob, recognising Cal’s current inability to both move on and attract a new partner, offers to effectively mentor Cal, helping him to purchase new stylish clothes and aid his success with other women.
Whilst Cal begins to experience the delights of his new-found look and confidence, Jacob meets Hannah (Stone), who seems resistant to his charms, despite his best efforts. In less capable hands Jacob’s often arrogant character could have grated and irritated. Instead, Gosling ensures Jacob, despite his self-assurance, remains thoroughly likeable and eminently watchable. Cal too, could have become increasingly pathetic considering his bereft state: instead his love for his wife feels genuine and believable.
Crazy, Stupid, Love stands out from the usual fairly dismal additions to the rom-com genre: largely in part to its great cast, but mostly due to the very nature of the film. The film’s focus isn’t simply upon new, exciting, immersive love (although this does feature), but also upon the love experienced by a couple who have been together for over twenty years and haven’t tired of one another, rather, they begin to appreciate one another more. This approach, representing married love as something to aspire to, is truly refreshing in an age of teen-focussed romantic entanglements.
Despite this, Crazy, Stupid, Love is ultimately let down by an overly saccharine ending, straying dangerously into a Richard Curtis-style public declaration of love, stressing the importance of finding your soul-mate. The film had already made this point in a far more subtle, and thus realistic manner, and it is this ending that prevents the film from becoming truly great; instead Crazy, Stupid, Love is merely good, disappointingly so when it could have been so much more.