By Paul Hunter
Anyone who has ever attempted dating will know that Hollywood rarely depicts it right. While rooting through the endless supply of sentimental tear-jerkers like The Notebook or over-the-top dramedies such as Couples Retreat, romance is often presented as inevitable or farcical. Crazy Stupid Love breaks the mold with its earnest intention to show us love in all its messiness and unpredictability, resulting in one of the freshest rom-com films to come around in years.
The films stars the bummed-out Cal Weaver (Steve Carell), whose 25 year marriage with Emily (Julianne Moore) has suddenly headed for divorce after hearing the news that she's cheated on him, with an awkward accountant no less (played by Kevin Bacon). Devastated, the middle-aged Cal moves into his own apartment and begins hitting the bars in hopes of drowning out his sorrows with excessive bourbon drinks that wind up give him the courage to approach women; none of which who are impressed with his incessant ramblings about his depression over losing the love of his life.
Cal's downward spiral takes an upswing when he meets the slick pick-up artist Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling) who offers to mentor the tactless dater, teaching him the art of one-night stands. The interplay between these characters is fantastic from the get-go, with clear on-stage synergy and a complementary contrast in their mannerisms. Whereas Cal is bumbling and unpoised, Jacob is deliberate and audacious, and while at first it seems Cal is the pupil, a twist half-way through reveals that Jacob could learn a thing or two from his protege.
Confounding the whole situation is Cal's teenage son, Robbie (Jonah Bobo), who has a crush on their babysitter, Jessica (Analeigh Tipton), who herself has an infatuation with Cal. Bobo and Tipton each play their roles excellently, walking that fine line between being believable enough to have mature feelings, yet not feeling artificial by any stretch. In fact they're so charming it may be the kids in this tangled love story whom you'll be rooting for the most to have a happy ending.
Jacob too finds his love life disrupted after coming face-to-face with a beautiful redhead named Hannah (Emma Stone) who flat out rejects offers of a drink and pushy flirtations. With his womanizing tactics failing him, Jacob is taken aback by Hannah's refusal to entertain him and eventually develops feelings of love towards her. Stone plays the love interest role so well that even though her screen time is limited, it's clear after her rendezvous with Jacob that she's the star of the film.
Crazy Stupid Love wraps all these messy relationships into a cohesive and believable ending, and will keep you guessing how it all ends. The movie's fantastic writing delivers punchy one-liners and escalating scenes of hilarity that are rarely delivered with such excellent directing. The finesse of the entire cast is evident, from the headliners all the way to the supporting characters such as Hannah's bestfriend Liz (Liza Lapira) and Cal's lifelong friend Bernie (John Lynch).
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track delivers clear, clean voices which is essential for this dialogue-driven movie. As a whole, the audio is is centered around the middle channel, with some nice atmospheric sounds (such as inaudible, yet never distracting bar room conversations) using the side speakers. The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer does the job well, especially nailing the fleshy tones of the actors and vibrant colours in the outdoor scenes. I would have liked the bar scenes, which permeate this film, to be brighter and cleaner, but they don't detract from the overall visual quality too much.
With such a fantastic film to present, it's a wonder why the bonus content is pretty slim. There's a pair of short featurettes, one called "Steve and Ryan Walk Into a Bar" (6:30), which has Carell and Gosling chatting about the film in the recognizable bar from the film, and "The Player Meets His Match" (5:34), which is a string of interviews with Carell, Gosling and Stone discussing the character of Jacob, and his relationships. There are also over 12 minutes of deleted scenes, including an alternative ending that may have worked better for the ending of the actual film.
If you've seen the movie and are a fan, this Blu-ray version is a must buy. If you haven't seen it, give it a try -- you won't be disappointed.
[This article originally appeared on the Future Shop Tech Blog]