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Guest Review: Crazy Stupid Love vs. Biutiful

Singer/songwriter Rain Perry (and good friend of mine going back several decades) has written up what I think is a good review of Crazy Stupid Love. You can read more about Rain on her site.

Okay, so it was clearly going to be a silly romantic comedy, but Crazy, Stupid, Love. seemed different enough – and not just for its unusually punctuated title – from the recent string of indistinguishable semi-raunchy wedding-related films in the Heigl/Bateman/Aniston/Kutcher oeuvre that I actually went and saw it.

Well, I loved it. I mean I really loved it. Why did I love it so much?

Okay, well, yes.

But I am an intellectual, highly perceptive songwriter, so Ryan Gosling with his shirt off really has no effect on me. It’s really the mind of a man that…okay, that’s bullshit. Ryan Gosling is impossibly hot, and this movie makes epic use of that fact.

But stay with me for a second for a bizarre comparison. Last fall, I went to see Biutiful. I expected it to be intense, but it was excruciating, because – even with its strange magical sequences – it was so relentlessly real. The script, the direction, every performance – it all rang so true to human nature, so utterly raw and honest, that at the end of it I was numb and exhausted. But I’m so glad I saw it, because I felt…I guess the word would be elevated. Staggering out of the theater, I was overwhelmed by the fragile beauty in the world.

Crazy, Stupid, Love. is almost exactly the opposite. It’s essentially a big budget Hollywood Rom-Com, which means it’s glossy and unrealistic and occasionally loses its insight and devolves into silly cliches, and yet…when it was over I was crying, and I felt elevated.

Let me try to figure this out. Really, Crazy, Stupid, Love. is a fairy tale. But it takes that role seriously. As such, it uses a classic kind of story to navigate the persistent challenges of being human. And it’s an adult fairy tale, in that I can report from a twenty-three year marriage that – in the midst of the requisite hilarity – it accurately captures the disappointment and frustration as well as the abiding passion and enduring sweetness of longterm love.

Julianne Moore holds the market on funny, wounded, plucky, wise female characters – from 30 Rock to The Kids Are Alright to A Single Man – who simply cannot be jaded, no matter what life throws at them. Steve Carell has a knack for revealing his essential humanity through – not just in spite of – the ridiculous scenarios in which he always exists, and the fact that he routinely surrounds himself with complex adult women – from Catherine Keener on – doesn’t hurt.

But the heart of the film belongs to the characters played by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, who are young and exuberant but not naive. They are both on the precipice of resigning themselves to the reality that life is going to be a little less rewarding than they once thought it would be. And then – yes, hijinks ensue – but somehow, through them, the movie affirms that no, it doesn’t have to be like that. You can meet someone when you least expect to who really sees you. You can find a way to reconnect when you’ve gone off-track with someone you’ve loved for a long time.

Life can be really effing hard – not as hard in this silly little movie as in the epic Biutiful by a long shot – but Crazy, Stupid, Love. – through Ryan Gosling’s relentless candor, through Josh Groban’s awesome lawyer hair, through Julianne Moore’s embarrassingly true-to-life mom-isms, through the brother!, through the hokey denouement – this movie sincerely swears to us that grace really can happen, or, to twist Tennessee Williams: “sometimes there’s love, so quickly.”

So, basically, it got me. I loved it. Oh, and you know, this kind of thing was okay too: