Finding True Emotions in Crazy, Stupid Love

By Josie Brown

Picture from Crazy, Stupid Love movie of man and woman in bed.When Crazy, Stupid Love isn’t being crazy or stupid, it is a wonderful movie. That’s because it’s got all the ingredients to be touching (as opposed to crazy) and  funny (as opposed to stupid): an intriguing premise, a great cast, and some knock-it-out-of-the-park dialogue.

Case in point: in the very first scene in the movie, long-time married couple Cal (Steve Carell) and Emily (Julianne Moore) are out to dinner. It’s time for dessert, and Carl, leaning toward the creme brulee but trying to be a gentleman about it, suggests each blurt out what they want on the count of three. Imagine his surprise (and ours) when Emily shouts out “A divorce!”

Talk about an appetite killer.

Cut to the next scene: As Emily drives them home, Cal is cross-examining her as to the who/what/where/when/how of her feelings. His cluelessness is driven home when she ‘fesses up to an affair with a co-worker: David Lindhagen, played by Kevin Bacon (a great foil, but sadly underutilized here).

Cal does what most of us what have done if we’d had the guts to dumpster dive even deeper into our emotional morass:

He flings himself out of the moving car.

His pity party begins with a thud, not to mention a few cuts and bruises.

He does not plan on drinking alone. After moving to a lonely guy pad, he stakes out his stool at a local fern bar, telling anyone withing spewing distance his sad sack tale.

Doing so harshes the mellow for Jacob (Ryan Gosling), the bar’s pinup boy player who has turned the pickup into an art form. But he feels enough sympathy for the middle-aged sad sack to take Cal under his Zenga-clad arm.

Molding  his emotionally distraught disciple into his mini-he is the film’s McGuffin. As the song says, how do you mend a broken heart? It ain’t with Cavalli and cranberrytinis, let alone a few lame pick-up lines from a guy still in love with his wife.

Cal doesn’t want closure an the ancedote that was his quarter-century marriage to his high school sweetheart and their adorable, adoring kids. And Jacob’s emotional bruises may not be as visible as Cal’s but the viewer soon realizes they are the crux of the movie.

In reality, he is the Ahab of  lonely guys.

His white whale come in the mermaid-sized package. Sweet and sassy, vulnerable but never naive Hannah (Emma Stone) a law school graduate, is the only woman immune to his sloe-eyed delivery.  When, finally, they do get together, Crazy, Stupid Love shows us that it is not a chick flick at all, but a bromance worthy of a good guy cry.

Subplots abound. Some are true gems, including one involving Marisa Tomei as a vulnerable, passionate lonely girl who breaks Cal’s pickup cherry; and another with Analeigh Tipton, Cal and Emily’s babysitter whose unrequited crush on Cal is reciprocated by Cal’s tween son, Robbie (Jonah Bobo), who is wiser than his years (in moviespeak, that means the dialogue coming from him is too mature for him).  The climax scene filled with mistaken identity, true confessions, and misinterpreted feelings–

And yet, I can’t help but feel that what is a cute, satisfying summer film could have been a truly great movie if it delved deeper into why Cal and Emily’s breakup occurred in the first place, since that’s what started all this crazy, stupid stuff. Granted, there is a shorthand between couples who have long been married. But if the audience hasn’t been there from the beginning, even someone with Julianne Moore’s talents can’t bring us up to speed on her despair. We get kicked to the curb along with Cal, and that just ain’t fair.


 Josie Brown is’s Relationships Channel Editor. Her novels, The Baby Planner, and  Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives, are in bookstores everywhere.

Her latest novel is The Housewife Assassin’s Handbook. You can read an excerpt here…

And enter The Housewife Assassin’s Handbook Contest to win free movie tickets to AMC theaters, or another theater near you! 


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