Crazy, Stupid, Love (12A)
When, over dinner, his wife blurts out that she wants a divorce, average boring father Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) sees his cosy, dull life instantaneously unravel.
It’s the catalyst for change in his flatlining life and he soon finds himself taken under the wing of Jacob, a smooth-talking, bar-hopping stud (Ryan Gosling) who, courtesy of a fashion and emotional make-over, gives Cal the confidence he needs to make sense of his life.
Carell has made a film career out of playing nerdy men, and Cal is no different. He’s an ordinary bloke in his forties who, somewhere along the line, lost his mojo. Wife Emily (Julianne Moore) noticed it years ago which is why she had sex with one of her colleagues.
The difference in this latest role is that Carell combines hangdog humour with character traits many married chaps will recognise. He’s not exciting anymore. He got older, safer, lost that keen edge. He became a Dad.
Crazy, Stupid, Love is a battle of the sexes. It pits what women want against what men tend to offer. Throw in the arena that is dating in bars and poor old Cal’s ineptitude is complete.
It also asks what is acceptable in relationships, and urges the audience to come up with the most appropriate answers. Is it right that Cal should forget who he once was and metamorphose into a nowhere man? Is Emily justified in seeking a sexual frisson – provided by Kevin Bacon as a predatory suit – from elsewhere?
And what about the love triangle between Cal, his 17-year-old babysitter (who adores him; he hasn’t a clue) and his 13-year-old son (who adores the babysitter, much to her embarrassment)?
This one boasts elements of Pygmalion/Pretty Woman, Love Actually and those fast-paced Ray Cooney farces that populated British theatres in the 1970s. Carell drifts between victim and quasi-hero and often provides the foil to Gosling. And when he does make a conquest – with Marisa Tomei, who steals the show – he hands the laughs to his on-screen partner.
Like most American flicks this one wends its way to a fairly predictable conclusion. Carell, like Steve Martin, Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler before him, is tinkering with his image. This picture (directed by Glenn Ficara and Glenn Requa) considers love and sex and whole shebang through the eyes of a run-of-the-mill guy. It is carefully crafted, plausibly presented and frequently funny.