Each week two of Bro Jackson’s film writers, David Kallison and Eddie Strait, will find a movie they disagree on and throw down as only film nerds know how: Through tersely worded emails. This week’s movie is the Josh Groban-starring “Crazy, Stupid, Love.”
David Kallison: Generally, I hate romantic comedies. “Annie Hall” and “Before Sunrise” being notable exceptions. For some reason, the genre is plagued with insipid dialogue, gender role stereotypes, and a mad lib style of plotting. “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” despite its horrible title, rises above the cliches to produce something fresh and funny. Ryan Gosling and Steve Carell play well off each other, as Julianne Moore and Emma Stone bring a nice female perspective. Plus, I really enjoyed the Shakespearean coincidences and misunderstandings. It was all great. What’s not to like?
Eddie Strait: I’ve gotta say, invoking Shakepeare right off the bat was a bold move. I think you’ve got something solid there and I’ll probably keep thinking about it for a while. But for now, I’m resigned to the idea that the plot is overly contrived and manipulative. This movie is working hard to let you know how clever it thinks it is. One man’s treasure . . .
My biggest gripe is the with the characters. These aren’t people. They’re caricatures of movie types we’re used to seeing. They’re so far removed from recognizable human behavior that they comes across as aliens trying to recreate “love.” I could (and will if you want me to) rant about each character in this thing, but I’ll stick to the ones that infuriate me the most. The lovelorn teen son of Carrell and Moore needs to be put in front of a firing squad. Marisa Tomei’s teacher is a complete psycho. Emma Stone (as likable as she is) is nothing more than a pawn.
One thing I’ll say in the movie’s favor is that I like where it ends up thematically. I just really did not enjoy the journey there.
I hate stupid love.
DK: I’m so angry I had to walk away from the computer before I started typing hateful things about your loved ones. Ahem. I don’t get how the plot is “manipulative.” Yes, it follows characters that are connected without telling you they are connected right away. But the reveal played out nicely and saved the movie from predictability that so often plagues the genre. The movie doesn’t think it’s clever, it’s just telling a story. Yes, it plays with format a bit, and there’s a couple winks in a few scenes (specifically when Cal says “How cliche” when it starts raining), but I loved it. It didn’t talk down to the audience.
The characters were played broad, for sure, but there was heart. Tomei was the only one that I felt went over and I wish they would’ve pulled her back. But, the scene in the classroom, where she is understandably livid, was pretty funny. I can’t believe you hated that kid. At worst he was a bit one note, but I remember being 13 and having crushes and I thought it was great that his dad respected his feelings, as silly as they might seem.
I can only assume your heart is a cold, shriveled husk.
The scene where everything is revealed is the nadir of the movie and possibly comedy as we know it. It’s got everything that I hate about the movie packed into two or three minutes.
The reason I feel manipulated is because the movie doesn’t just rely on coincidence, but it relies on so many and I don’t believe that any of the big reveals didn’t come up before. If the movie had been working for me, that scene would play like gangbusters. All I can do is roll my eyes while the three guys wrestle around like nimrods.
DOUBLE DOUBLE AAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!
I understand being a teenager with a crush. We all do. But I defy you to find one 13-year-old kid that’s been caught jerking off by his crush, then responds by saying “I’m thinking about you!” Holy smokes. And that’s the first time we meet the kid. The rest of the time he’s busy being the precocious kid cliche these movies traffic in. We’ve all made fools of ourselves in the name of love, but none of us spend every waking second doing it.
My heart shriveled up somewhere between the third time Gosling said “shfonz” and the 50th wide-eyed reaction shot after a reveal.
DK: Wow I had to go buy a new laptop since I just threw my MacBook out the window. I’ll give you the fact that the three dudes wrestling each other was lame, but I thought Gosling and Carrell played their parts perfectly. They have now switched roles, playboy and family man, and I thought those ideas were worth exploring.
Dude, it’s a movie. Name me one group of scientists that fight ghosts and we can talk about the kid. I thought that scene was funny. It was crass and had an edge to it. It was memorable, yeah? And the scene where the girl tries to take naked pictures of herself, but looks incredibly awkward and silly flips all of those types of scene on their head. It was endearing and funny, and again, had that edge.
Fuck you for saying anything bad about Gosling. Those eyes haunt the sex part of my soul.
Is there anything we agree on in this movie? Any common ground?
ES: The best part of the movie is Carrell. He’s the only character I ever had any sympathy for. I really liked the scene where he’s on the phone with Moore and she’s asking him about the water heater. That scene had more heart and subtlety than the rest of the movie. Of course the scene starts with Carrell sneaking into the yard so he can spy on her. But it’s an instance where the performers rise above the material and the characters feel honest and real as opposed to cartoons.
That’s not to say I don’t like outlandish situations and characters. I’m still the guy that thinks “Bubble Boy” is hilarious. I guess it just comes down to the characters in this case and I just don’t like them enough to buy what they’re selling.
While I’m at it, I’d be remiss if I didn’t draw attention to Groban’s one scene. I know acting isn’t his primary vocation, so there’s some slack afforded to him. He’s channeling Nic Cage and the cadence and inflections are priceless. Also, this may be sacrilege, but I also thought Kevin Bacon was pretty bland.
I understand what the movie’s going for and it even mostly worked for me the first time I watched the movie. As the title implies, love brings the ridiculous behaviors out of us and I can appreciate the aspirations. But, man, a repeat viewing was not kind to this movie and I don’t have the need to ever see this thing again.
DK: I’ll actually give you the Kevin Bacon dig. He phoned it in.
I hear what you’re saying, though. It sounds like you were set up an emotional, heartfelt tale, and you got a lot of broad, caricature humor that didn’t hit and didn’t satisfy from a narrative perspective.
Can we hug this one out?
ES: I think there’s hope for me yet. The one thing I’ll take from this is the Shakespearean coincidence. I actually really like that point. Not enough to sway me on the movie, but enough for me to clearly see the other side of the coin.