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"Crazy, Stupid, Love" Review: At last, a movie for grown-ups

Steve Carell, and Ryan Gosling at the "Crazy Stupid Love" premiere in New York,  July 19, 2011.
Steve Carell, left, and Ryan Gosling at the "Crazy Stupid Love" premiere in New York, July 19, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)

"Crazy, Stupid, Love" is a sharp, cleverly written romantic comedy that goes against the grain, producing genuine laughs and more than a couple of surprises.

It wasn't made for 20- or 30-somethings. There are enough rom-coms out there catering to that angst-filled group who all are trying to grow up and move on and form their first serious, lasting relationship.

This film is for the generation after that. They're Generation X, the ones who settled down a while ago.- These are the folks who tried so hard to work towards a strong, stable future for themselves and their families to make up for all the messed-up stuff their parents did in the '60s and '70s. There hasn't been a romantic comedy that holds so true to the sentiments of that overlooked generation.

Directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa manage to pull the reins in and keep "Crazy, Stupid, Love" from turning into something cliché and campy. They're helped by a stellar leading pair, Oscar nominee Julianne Moore and leading man Steve Carell, as well as a supporting cast that includes Oscar winner Marisa Tomei, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Kevin Bacon and Josh Groban.

Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) is a 40-something, straight-laced guy living the sweet life. He's got a good job, a nice house in the suburbs, great kids and has been married to his high school sweetheart (Julianne Moore) for 25 years. Life is bliss, or so he thinks.

The film's opening scene pairs the two at a restaurant dinner. Neither can decide what he or she wants. For Cal the menu is too extensive; for Emily (Moore) their marriage has lost it's fizzle. She tells him she wants a divorce. Cal's perfect life quickly goes tragically and comically downhill.

Looking for the solution to his suddenly single woes at the bottom of several cranberry-and -vodka drinks, he starts hanging out at a bar, where he bears witness to the prowess of Jacob (Ryan Gosling), a man who has honed the art of picking up a woman down to a science. Feeling sorry for Cal (we find out why later in the film), he takes him under his wing, promising him, "Your wife will regret the day she ever let you go."

Thus begins the hilarious transformation of Cal Weaver from loser to lothario. Gosling proves he can add comedy nicely to his repertoire (steadily cementing his position as a Hollywood leading man) when he overhauls Cal's wardrobe.

"You are better than Gap," he instills in his protégé when told the oversized, baggy jeans he has "work fine." They don't, but thanks to Jacob and several pricey designer shirts and suits later, the transformation is complete. Cal Weaver is on the prowl.

Meanwhile, Emily is slowly falling apart, openly admitting that she's the one with the mid-life crisis. She admits to lying about where she was one night, saying she wasn't at work, but at a "Twilight" film.

" I don't know why I did that," she weeps, "it was really bad." At work, she tries to avoid Kevin Bacon's character, the accountant with whom she had a one night stand. She doesn't want to have anything more to do with him, but he has other ideas.

Carell and Moore's characters aren't the only ones struggling to figure out what love is all about. Their 13-year old son, Robbie (Jonah Bobo) is in love with his 17-year old babysitter (Analeigh Tipton), who in turn has a crush on Cal. And even smooth operator Jacob succumbs to the wiles of a woman (Emma Stone) when she refuses to fall for his professional pick-up lines.

Ficarra and Requa do a fine job at springing unexpected surprises at just the right moment, breaking down some of the platitudes that are inevitable in rom-coms. Appearances by Marisa Tomei provide moments for unabashed laughter.

Moore shows viewers exactly why she is a four-time Academy Award nominee, managing to get to the heart of her mixed -up character, conflicted between wanting to let go and start life anew and dealing with the feelings she still has for her high school sweetheart.

Carell plays the conflicted husband aptly - with a mix of emotion and slight contempt, but also as a man who still loves the woman he calls his "soul mate." Gosling and Stone turn in strong performances and Robbie and his crush Jennifer help form the perfect arch, creating three generations of mixed-up couples, all trying to figure out what love's got to do with it.

"Crazy, Stupid, Love" is the perfect antidote to the rush of hi-tech, glossy, big budget action films released this summer and it provides something many of us haven't seen in this movie season - a real-life, grown-up comedy.