When a movie opens with a woman telling her husband that she wants a divorce after twenty-five years of marriage and it isn’t played for laughs, you know you’re not in for a “typical” Hollywood comedy. Given the current state of comedy, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but what we get instead is an odd, meandering, mood-swinging movie called Crazy, Stupid, Love. (Yes, there’s a period at the end of the title, for no apparent reason.)
As the central couple, Steve Carell and Julianne Moore play their scenes honestly and believably, so while the characters and incidents around them become farcical at times, the core of the film remains—
—subdued and even melancholy. Both actors are warm and likable, so we want things to work out for them…but it isn’t going to be easy.
When Carell tries to drown his sorrow in drink, lounge lizard Ryan Gosling takes pity and tries to teach him how to be a player on the singles scene. (The one woman Gosling can’t seem to conquer is Emma Stone.) Meanwhile, Carell’s 13-year-old son, Jonah Bobo, is in love with his 17-year-old babysitter, who in turn has a crush of her own. Kevin Bacon plays Moore’s officemate, with whom she slept before deciding on the divorce, and Marisa Tomei is Carell’s new lover.
There are good scenes, and even some genuine laughs, scattered throughout the movie, written by Dan Fogelman and directed by John Requa and Glenn Ficarra (whose last effort, the underrated I Love You, Phillip Morris, also blended elements of comedy and drama), but they never cohere into a satisfying whole, and the constant shifts in tone don’t help. I usually like movies that manage to be both serious and funny, but the transitions ought to be seamless.