Peter and I have seen three movies in the theater over the past week: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Captain America, and Crazy, Stupid, Love. Of these three, Crazy, Stupid, Love is the one we both enjoyed the most and would recommend to others.
In many ways, this isn’t a super-special movie. It’s not the funniest movie ever made, or the most meaningful. It features white, upper middle-class folks. Heterosexuality is the norm. This movie does NOT pass the Bechdel feminist movie test. In other words, it’s like most movies.
But there is much pleasure to be had in a movie that is just all-around GOOD. Good script, good characters, good actors, nothing too cheesy, a plot that makes sense (some suspension of disbelief required, but not an untowardly amount). We laughed out loud. I shed a tear at one point. We came away smiling.
Here’s what I liked most:
- The relationship between Cal and Emily, a couple who have been married for 25 years and are going through a divorce, felt real. You could see why they liked each other, why they had fallen in love in the first place. There are a couple of times in the film, after the first flush of their breakup is past, where they talk to each other, make each other laugh, and enjoy each other’s company. You could see how they had made it 25 years together.
- Cal’s friendship with 30-year-old Jacob also felt real. The premise that Jacob is helping to makeover Cal may not be the kind of thing that happens much in real life (or maybe it does! what do I know?), but the deepening of the friendship into something more meaningful—a friendship where each man asks the other for advice, where they check up on each other—was a pleasure to see. Peter commented that these two talked to each other the way men talk to each other in real life.
- Ryan Gosling as Jacob was hilarious. This is a character we’d loathe in real life: who wants a friend so mean and shallow? But honestly, I could watch him slap Steve Carell’s face forever.
- Although the lead women characters don’t get as much to do as the men, these are nevertheless smart and interesting women. Cal’s cheating wife, Emily, is portrayed as confused and conflicted, undergoing something of a midlife crisis. In a different movie, she’d be the villain in the film. Instead, here she’s a sympathetic character, and we root for her and Cal to patch things up.
There’s a lot to chew on with the morality of the singles scene at the bar Cal and Jacob frequent. The plot objectifies women, certainly, but I also think it ultimately calls into question that objectification. The “love ’em and leave ’em” lifestyle is glamorized, but also exposed as empty.
The movie takes a firm stance in opposition to cynicism. In praise of grand, romantic gestures, perhaps the film itself is the most romantic gesture of all: a praise mediation on love in many of its permutations. And that’s what I liked about it.