Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Review: Crazy, Stupid Love is stupid, vapid, insulting, misogynistic, and completely disconnected from human experience. A baker's dozen list of why I hate it:

Stupid, Crazy Love
117 minutes
rated PG-13

Stupid, Crazy Love is a wolf in sheep's clothing.  Despite its pedigreed cast and the directing team of Dan Fogelman and John Requa (the very good I Love You Phillip Morris), Stupid, Crazy Love is written and performed like a sub-par sitcom.  Despite its promise of adult comedy and genuine insight into love, family, and relationships, it comes off as a shockingly moronic and simplistic fable penned by people who apparently have no experience with real relationships.  Every moment of genuine pathos and earned drama is followed or undercut by a ghastly contrivance.  It treats women solely as conquests, either as casual one-off hook-ups or as prizes to be won.  In terms of teaching its audience how how to deal with the people in our lives, it is far more insidious than the Twilight films, since the supernatural romance is hardly subtle about its disconcerting undertones.  Like the loathsome Enchanted, Crazy, Stupid Love hides its regressive and boneheaded notions of love and romance under a guise of progressive maturity and thoughtfulness.  I do not yet know whether it is the worst film of 2011.  But it surely contains more awful moments than any film I've seen this year.

A token amount of plot: Cal (Steve Carell) has just been dumped by his wife of 25 years after Emily (Julianne Moore) admits to having an affair with her coworker, David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon).  Conceding defeat and moving out, Cal drowns his sorrows at a local nightclub where his self-pitying rants draw the attention of pick-up artist Jacob (Ryan Gosling).  For reasons relatively unexplained, Jacob takes pity on Cal and offers to mentor him in the ways of 'scoring' with the various women that show up at this one bar every night.  As Cal embraces his inner lothario, his son has issues of his own.  Thirteen-year old Robbie (Jonah Bobo) has a massive crush on Jessica (Analeigh Tipton) the family's seventeen-year old babysitter.  Will Cal find peace with his new one-night stands, or does he merely miss his wife?  Can Robbie stalk, harass, and embarrass his way into Jessica's heart?  And what will happen to serial f*cker Jacob when he actually forms a connection with Hannah (Emma Stone), a young lawyer who initially spurned his advances?

The problem with this picture is not in its concept, but rather in the execution.  Rather than honestly explore the various issues it brings up (the dissolution of marriage in middle-age, getting back in the dating scene, the awkward first crush, being afraid of emotional connections, etc), it uses these concepts for a broad and frankly moronic narrative that insults our intelligence as well as our emotions.  This is usually the part where I go into various general details about the acting, characters, and narrative.  But the easiest thing to do would simply be for me to list the many, many things I hated about this movie.  There will be spoilers, but the major plot reveal I want to discuss will be given forewarning (and will be discussed as vaguely as possible).

I HATE that we have no idea why Cal and Emily actually like each other.  Other than a lovely moment outside a parent/teacher conference (which is followed up by the worst scene in the picture), all we hear is that they met each other in middle school, are absolutely soul mates (uh-huh), and uh... something about miniature golf.  We have no idea how they spent their time together or what they talked about when they were actually happy.  Like any number of bad romantic comedies, we have no idea why we should root for these two people to get together other than that we like the actors and they are the protagonists.  

I HATE that we are told that Cal is a wonderful father, but we see no evidence to that effect.  He has not a single conversation with his young daughter (who has maybe three lines of dialogue), and his one 'bonding' moment with his son has him giving Robbie HORRIBLE advice.  A major plot turn hinges on him not knowing who his son's eight-grade teacher happens to be, and the climax involves a moment where he basically shows up his own kid in a public arena for his own selfish whims.

I HATE that Jacob is supposed to be an expert pick-up artist, yet the one extended demonstration of his skills have him tossing out god-awful pick-up lines and atrociously poor banter that my three year old wouldn't fall for.  Free tip: when hitting on a lawyer, using legal terminology only works if it isn't painfully obvious that you're picking said vocabulary at random because the majority of your legal knowledge comes from Nickelodeon's Kids' Court.  That this stuff is said to work time after time makes every woman in the picture look like an easy, brainless conquest and no more.

I HATE that one of the main subplots concerns 13-year old Robbie, who basically stalks his 17-year old babysitter and constantly professes his 'love' for her, often in public places and even after she tells him 'no' several times over.  Every time he seems to get it, someone (usually his father) basically tells him to never, ever give up.  So a 13-year old boy stalking and harassing his 17-year old babysitter is okay as long as he really thinks they're soul mates?  And the resolution to said story is kinda cute, until you realize that it actually involves the commission of a very serious (and overly prosecuted) crime.

I HATE that Marisa Tomei is humiliated and embarrassed throughout every moment of her brief screen time.  I hate that her recovering alcoholism is played for laughs, and that she's presented as a woman who is completely unable to maintain her professional composure in a professional setting, to the point of 'hilarious' confrontational behavior that would surely get her suspended in the real world.

I HATE that Emma Stone (who is barely in the movie) is a seemingly straight-shooting young attorney who is heartbroken when her boyfriend (who she's not really all that fond of) offers her a great job instead of an engagement ring at a pivotal moment.  I hate that after her big set piece with Gosling (the best scene in the movie by a mile), she is reduced to a plot device that exists purely to bring together and pull apart various characters.

I HATE that the major confrontational moment involves yet another frantic chase, followed by several major characters all attacking each other based on moronic misunderstandings, one of which could have been avoided if a certain major character had blurted out the truth to their respective parent BEFORE said parent left the house in rage.  And I hate that the said confrontation has all of the men trying to beat each other up while all of the women stand on the side helpless and aghast.

I HATE that Cal makes his big effort to win back his wife after a single decent phone conversation.  It's a wonderfully sweet little moment, where Emily pretends to have a housekeeping crisis so that she can call Cal for help, unaware that Cal is actually outside tending to the lawn (kinda weird, but we can go with it).  But the moment is undercut by the idea that Cal (and the filmmakers) seem to think that all it takes to win back your wife is a single pleasant phone call.

I HATE that the women in the film exist solely at the pleasure of the men around them.  Like Love Actually (an admittedly better film), the instances where a woman yearns for a man end in relative defeat, while the instances where a man yearns for a woman ends in relative victory.  The one exception is Kevin Bacon's genuine feelings for Julianne Moore, and the film's greatest strength is that the film doesn't make him a villain.  Furthermore, a major plot development (going to be vague, but spoiler warning by insinuation...) involves the dating activities of a certain character's daughter.  Despite the fact that said daughter is presented as someone who absolutely can take care of herself and is old enough to make independent choices, the breakthrough comes when said worried father merely gives his blessing.  At no point does anyone point out that this 'perfect girl' can probably be trusted to make an informed choice about who to date.  Hell, said daughter and said father don't have a single scene of meaningful dialogue in the whole film.

I HATE that the climax of the film involves not just that hoary old cliche, the big speech in front of a crowd of people which reaffirms the film's apparent wisdom, but a moment where a father literally steals the spotlight from his son during a major speech because he doesn't agree with the son's thesis.  Never mind that the kid earned that stage time by being the class salutatorian.  Never mind that no decent parent would selflessly bump his own son off the stage to deliver an impassioned defense of uh... 'love and soul mates'.  No, we're supposed to be thrilled when Cal interrupts Robbie's big moment so he can have HIS big moment instead, a moment which again serves to publicly humiliate several women in the audience.

I HATE the film is filled with implausible and/or unlikely events that occur without comment or notice.  Jacob leaves Cal with an $800 bar tab... no consequences.  Marisa Tomei makes a public spectacle of herself during a professional meeting... no consequences.  The babysitter takes explicit photos of herself to send to Cal and gets caught by her parents.  Aside form the above-mentioned 'hilarious misunderstanding'... no consequences.  Hannah responds to a prestigious job offer by embarrassing her then-boyfriend in public (instead of accepting the job and having a heart-to-heart in private)... no consequences.  The film is filled with absurdities like this, yet pertains to be a knowledgeable and plausible study of modern human relationships.

I HATE that the film is getting a pass because it stars respected actors and has the gloss of 'mature adult comedy', when it is actually less insightful, mature, and intelligent than any one of Judd Apatow's R-rated raunch-fests.  I HATE that it's actually far worse than any number of mediocre romantic comedies (27 Dresses, My Best Friend's Girl, Arthur, Valentine's Day, No Strings Attached, etc).  I hate that its gloss of alleged quality makes its simplistic view of relationships (most women can be tricked into bed by a mediocre pick-up artist, soul mates are absolutely real, and never ever take no for an answer if you think you love the girl) far more dangerous than something like Twilight or any number of more overtly misogynistic guy-centric pictures that I often pick on.  At least Michael Bay and Edward Cullen wear their masks on the outside.

I HATE that Crazy, Stupid Love is as bad as it is.  I hate that it wastes a wonderful cast (most of whom are as good as the material allows them to be) and squanders a rare chance for a mainstream studio picture to tell stories about middle-aged relationships.  I hate that it's going to be held up as an example of 'doing it right', when it is so much more wrong than any number of correctly dismissed examples in the rom-com genre.  I hate that I didn't love this picture as much as I wanted to, because I take no pleasure in ripping movies apart, especially when they are somewhat outside the norm of what is released these days by a major studio.  I HATE that Crazy, Stupid Love is an absolute failure and one of the worst films of 2011.

Grade: D


Matt from Phoenix said...

lol and after all that and you gave it a "D". Man, wonder what a film has to do to get an "F".



Aden Jordan said...

I haven't seen this movie yet nor do I have any desire to so I can't comment on whether I agree with you or not about the quality of the picture. As mean as this may sound, I'm glad to hear you dislike this film for a reason that you actually mentioned in your review. Studios, audiences, and even critics tend to think that if a movie has big name stars, glossy production value, and "edgy" filmmakers that the finished product will automatically be high-quality, stylish, and unique; which is exactly how this movie is being marketed. Judging from the trailers and commercials this movie looked hypocritical, unoriginal, and dumb, and I'm pleased that you saw the movie as being these things too.

Again, I haven't seen the movie so I can't judge it. My point is that the trailers, commercials, and other ads desperately tried to present one kind of film, I immediately questioned it, and now thankfully since I trust your opinion I can smugly rest assure that I wasn't a sucker for this movie and it's marketing campaign.

drdang said...

I would like to hear your thoughts on why you didn't like Enchanted...

Danny said...

I HATE how the whole premise of this movie was that a GOOD FATHER was cheated on by his wife, left HIS house and children, and had to go through a soul searching experience in order to win back HIS wife (the cheater). People like to think these things don't affect there way of thinking but it does. I can't believe i made it through this painstakingly horrible misandrist movie...ugh. i expected better from steve.


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