The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Crazy, Stupid, Love.

There are romantic comedies, and there are dramas. It seems it's one or the other when it comes to stories about love, marriage, relationships, but without any real middle ground. When movies with some laughs produced from dramatic situations come along, scoop them up, like 2011's Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Married to his wife, Emily (Julianne Moore), for over 20 years with three kids and leading a supposedly happy life, Cal Weaver (Steve Carell), is dealt a shocker when Emily asks him for a divorce. Cal doesn't know what to do other than to agree, especially when Emily says she slept with a co-worker. In his mid 40s, Cal now finds himself basically starting life over, discovering everything isn't so easy as a single guy. One night in a bar he meets Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling), a successful 20-something who is quite the ladies man. Quick enough, Jacob has Cal acting like the confident guy he can and should be, but even then Cal feels like he's missing something. Jacob meanwhile has a problem of his own, he's fallen hard for Hannah (Emma Stone), and has no idea how to handle this new situation.

Finding a middle ground between raunchy sex comedy and hardcore, depressing drama, 'Crazy' in terms of quality is better than most of either of those two extremes. It finds a nice balance in between the two. It tries to take an honest look at the world of love, from Cal and Emily's 13-year old son, Robbie (Jonah Bobo), who's fallen in love with their 17-year old babysitter, Jessie (Analeigh Tipton), to the younger audience of Jacob and Hannah, and then capping it with the married couple in their 40s. In taking a fairly honest approach, the risk is that we won't like the characters, and at different points, that's true. These people are not likable in a lot of instances. There were times I wasn't rooting for anybody. But it is honest, and it shows people for what they are, human, just people looking for some sort of happiness whatever that may be.

With an ensemble cast working together in a movie that's 115 minutes long, there are times where it feels certain stories and characters get the short end of the stick. Still, it's a talented ensemble so it's not a major issue. Similar to his performance in 2007's Dan in Real Life, Carell shows he's capable again of comedy and drama. He plays that John Everyman as well as anybody, and his chemistry with Moore -- even through the trials and tribulations -- is real and believable. Gosling gets a showy performance as Jacob, a smooth ladies man (womanizer comes to mind) who effortlessly gets women, Stone's Hannah presenting a bit of a challenge and a change of pace. Also look for Marissa Tomei as Kate, one of the women Cal meets as he tries to jump-start his single life. Like What Women Want, Tomei plays slightly crazy, and I'm thinking...why can't she get better roles? Kevin Bacon plays David, the co-worker Emily sleeps with, making the character more than just a stereotype. He's got genuine feelings for Emily, it just happens to be a bad situation.

My issue with this story comes from any number of little things. Cliched comes to mind more than a few times, and some "twists" that are thrown at us don't really work. Check that, one toward the end really works. I didn't see that one coming at all. The story though has things happen for the sake of moving the story along. Sitting in a bar, Gosling's Jacob hears Carell's Cal giving a sob story about his situation and instantly steps to the plate, helping him become an older, stylish version of himself. Yes, Jacob says Cal reminds him of his father, but we're supposed to believe he's going to help a complete stranger because of that resemblance? Jacob is charming and smooth, but his character bugged me. 'Man-whore' comes to mind describing him, but oh, he's cute! Let's ignore that.

Then there's the last 30 minutes or so as the story takes a route I really wished they hadn't. Babysitter Jessie loves Cal, takes naked pictures of herself, her parents (Beth Littleford and John Carroll Lynch) find them with 'Cal' written on an envelope, and the fireworks start. Basically the whole cast comes together for a kooky, hair-brained, off the wall "fight" that is in itself, pretty funny. But it is so far removed from the tone of the rest of the movie, it ends up feeling out of place. And the ending, more characters doing things they would only do in a movie. Cal takes the microphone from Robbie at his 8th grade graduation and proceeds to tell the audience about his love life. Oh, and Jessie later gives Robbie the naked pictures of herself. Another oddity if you ask me, and kind of creepy.

This is a good movie. It is. The cast is very good, the script for the most part is well written, and on-screen chemistry helps make up for a lot of the movie's flaws. But they're there. No doubt about that. Hopefully you can look past them and enjoy the movie for what it is.

Crazy, Stupid, Love. <---trailer (2011): ** 1/2 /****

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