Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)
American comedies have been on the up in recent years, and Steve Carell is one of the reasons for it. His character in Crazy, Stupid, Love is a more successful and sociable version of his 40 Year Old Virgin. If you believe Carell's name on the poster makes the protagonist simple and one-dimensional, you'll have to watch any of these two movies - again if necessary. Because Carell is one of very few comedians who is able to make the traditional leading rom-com-persona both authentic, funny and fresh.
But enough about Steve Carell. He is only one actor of many in Crazy, Stupid, Love, and, in all respect, not the main reason why this film works so well. That reason is simply a combination of a crisp, clever script (by animated film screenwriter Dan Fogelman) and a couple of directors (Glenn Ficarra and John Requa) who understand and nail the balance between lightweight comedy and closeness to reality. Most other things in Crazy, Stupid, Love - including the form, the genre conventionality, the dramatic structure and the thematic core - is as standardized as can be. This is a typical American romantic comedy, right down to the mandatory moralizing in the end, telling us that love is the answer and that selfishness and fooling around may be fun, but it doesn't make you happy.
Although the latter may be right, this Hollywoodized need for moral is my only real objection towards Crazy, Stupid, Love. And if you start wondering how this film can deserve my rating, considering my rattling off of what makes it so ordinary, I should add that my point in doing that is just to emphasize the quality of the script and the sympathetic, intelligent characters and performances. Crazy, Stupid, Love delivers despite seemingly being just one in the crowd - not because it has its heart in the right place (which every rom-com has) or because it's so sweet (which every rom-com is), but because it understands people and is able to discuss some very human issues a little deeper and less biased than most films - both in this and other genres. There are many films which deal with subjects like controversial age differences and the value of style versus substance, but few which acknowledge arguments from both sides and don't pass judgment.
My next exhibit in singing this film's praise is that Ryan Gosling and Julianne Moore agreed to take part in supporting roles. And what great performances they deliver. In many ways, those two constitute the thematic core of the film, from two opposite angles. And Steve Carell must learn to understand them both in order to "recapture his manhood" as Gosling puts it. Crazy, Stupid, Love offers great fun coupled with some real insight. And, just to quote every other critic, it has its heart in the right place. Well, that last bit is true, but it's not what makes the film.