Thursday, February 9, 2012

Crazy, Stupid, Love - Blu-ray Review


Blu-ray/DVD Release Date: November 1, 2011

I avoided this movie upon its initial release mainly because it didn't appear as though it was trying anything different. It looked as though it was just going through the motions of your stereotypical romantic dramedy where we get to see a small group of people whose love lives intersect in unconventional ways. While it certainly doesn't break any new ground in this regard, its very appealing cast adds just enough flavor to spice up its more tiresome romantic tropes.

Review Vital Stats:
Format: Blu-ray
Player: Playstation 3
Monitor: Samsung 40' LCD Series 5
Picture Quality: 1080p
Sound Quality: DTS-HD Master Audio - English

Loves: Emma Stone
Likes: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Kevin Bacon
Neutral: Yet another movie about complexities in relationships
Hates: Last second inspirational speeches that solves every ones problems
Shocked: blah blah

All popular genres are guilty of recycling but none more so than that of the romantic comedy. It seems as though every year we are graced with dozens of new films dealing with relationships and how they effect our everyday lives. But if there were one genre that needs to be examined from every possible angle I believe this is it because if there is one thing every single person on this planet deals with on a daily basis it is our incessant need to find that special someone. That one person with whom we can share our lives with, that one person we can laugh with, that one person we can count on to be there when everything seems lost. That one person can be our wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend or even someone that is unclassifiable but regardless of what label they have they are our soulmate. Crazy, Stupid, Love is a film about soulmates and how despite all obstacles they are the one person that can make us feel whole despite their faults.

Family man and loving husband Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) loves his wife Emily (Julianne Moore), but Emily wants a divorce because she now loves her co-worker David (Kevin Bacon). While drowning his sorrows at a local bar/club Cal meets a womanizer named Jacob (Ryan Gosling) who has a thing for the unattainable Hannah (Emma Stone) who is waiting for her clueless boyfriend to finally propose to her. Meanwhile Cal and Emily's 13 year old son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) is in love with his soulmate and babysitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton), who is four years older than him and just so happens to be hopelessly in love with Robbie's dad Cal who is now busy sleeping around with random women he meets at the bar like Kate (Marisa Tomei). All these people and their assorted love lives will soon come crashing down on one another as each of them finds out how crazy and stupid love can actually be.

Cal discovers that he isn't a real man anymore.

Crazy, Stupid, Love does absolutely nothing you haven't already seen a hundred times over by this point. It's about a guy who must rediscover himself in order to fully appreciate what he has. It is about another guy who must discover that his way of life isn't what he really wants. It is about the women in their lives going through all sorts of mental instabilities as they slowly come to the realization that they either already have everything they want or that they have been tricking themselves into thinking they have everything they need when they really don't. These paths of self discovery for each and every one of these characters isn't really something that will surprise or shock you but then that isn't really the point now is it?

This goes back into the recycling of ideas I mentioned earlier. We don't watch these types of movies to be surprised, although it is a very nice treat when that does happen. No, we watch films like this because it is very easy to identify with characters that are in relationships, it is like a comfort food for the soul in some regards. The more real that relationship feels the more of an impact it has on us the viewer. Action movies, adventure movies, sci-fi movies, horror movies and all of those other outlandish genres are the epitome of escapist fun but they hardly ever reflect our own lives such as that of the romance/dramedy. While I can't speak to how everyone feels on this subject I can't believe there isn't some element of truth there. How else can anyone explain that each year we get subjugated to all these very similar stories about relationships and they almost always turn a profit?

Jacob is offended at Cal's appearance.

The fly in the ointment however is when you get someone like me, who more or less has never been in a committed relationship. While there are some rare examples of films that seem to get where I am coming from on the subject (500 Days of Summer), more often than not I cannot relate to the characters that populate these types of movies. So what's the draw for me then? It is a combination of two things, first is how genuine and honest the film is in what it is trying to say. Are the filmmakers trying to make a statement? If so, then are they trying to make light of it or give some form of deeper meaning or maybe both? How real does it feel? If it is too broad then it risks losing me but if it is way too serious it also risks losing me. For me it comes down to a sort of wish fulfillment and by that I mean I like to project myself into the characters and sort of imagine myself in their place. So if any of those pieces are off I usually tend to lose interest quickly.

The success of that strategy comes from my second pet peeve with these types of films, which is the casting. This is the pivotal element for me, the one thing that if got wrong I will just move on to the next film that hopefully gets it right. This is a case of not just the individual actors but their chemistry with one another and it is also deeply rooted into my own personal tastes, my likes and dislikes. Just like looking for that perfect someone in the real world, I need to feel that click, that thing that unknowingly goes off in my head and tells me, "Yes, this is the one". So, what does any of this have to do with the film at hand? Why waste so much time talking in generalities about the genre and not the actual film? Because this is how I view these types of movies and unless you know where I am coming from nothing I am about to say will matter to you in the least.

You can never have enough screencaps of Emma Stone.

For me Crazy, Stupid, Love nails just about all those points and only stumbles rarely when it relies a little too heavily on some extremely cliche conventions for the genre. I really enjoyed how the film opens and how it glides from person to person giving us hints as to who they like, don't like and who they are fixated on. The film weaves its tangled web of love and relationships quite elegantly given how many different characters we end up following. It never felt like it was over doing it or giving any one character more time than they needed. Usually with films of this type where we are asked to follow so many characters it ends up never having enough time to devote to each of them to make their inclusion feel worthwhile but that was never an issue here.

But by far the films greatest strength is how it mixes together its dramatic moments with the comedic without ever getting overly sentimental. It may sound strange that a film of this sort can be too sentimental but you might be surprised how often that can deflate any drama that has been built up. When we see Cal and Emily break up at the outset of the movie it is done in a way where we feel his heartache but we can also laugh freely at his somewhat over the top reaction to the news that his wife (the only woman he has ever been with) wants to leave him. Much of the praise has to go to Steve Carell though, he has the my-life-is-in-shambles-and-i-am-going-to-bottle-everything-up-and-pretend-it-isn't-happening personality down pat. His role here isn't that different from the one he played in another favorite romantic comedy of mine featuring Carell as widowed father of three daughters in Dan In Real Life. He may be just repeating a performance he has done in the past but that doesn't change the fact that he was made for roles like the self loathing but fun loving father figure.

Emily contemplates her decision for a divorce.

But the film doesn't really kick into high gear until Cal meets Jacob who is just about the biggest stud you will ever see. It is because of performances like this that I have started to become a huge fan of Ryan Gosling. The character of Jacob is just such a sleazy asshole but the kind of asshole that you just love. His self assuredness was almost comical at times, the way he approaches women and is as direct about his intentions as possible to them. Jacob is what women imagine when they think of the perfect guy, he is handsome, financially secure and carries himself with a confidence that is beyond belief. But the problem is that he isn't perfect at all and as it turns out it just took the right woman to make him see it.

As much as I liked everything with Cal trying to cope with losing his wife by becoming the world's oldest gigolo and Emily trying to convince herself that she made the right decision, it was the budding relationship between Jacob and Hannah that I found to be the heart and soul of the film. I guess it has to do more with the fact that I prefer being told a story about a man who is lost emotionally and how he finds his way as opposed to a married couple going through some issues. It didn't hurt that Jacob's main squeeze just so happened to be played by Emma Stone either, whom any regular readers of mine will note is my main cinematic crush at the moment. My obsession aside, I really did think that Gosling and Stone had a great chemistry with each other which resulted in what I believe to be the best scene in the entire movie when they go back to Gosling's house for an evening together which turns out completely differently than either of them had planned.

Cal and Jacob reflect upon what just happened.

All of this was always punctuated with some truly hysterical moments. Emily's confession to going and seeing the latest Twilight movie all on her own and feeling awful about it (both because she saw it by herself and that she saw it all) was pitch perfect, Jacob pulling a "Miyagi" on Cal and their uncomfortable discussions in the mens locker room where Jacob proceeds to put his junk right in Cal's face and Cal's inevitable reaction to it, how Jacob uses the final scene of Dirty Dancing as his ultimate tool to bed any woman and finally the one night stand between Cal and Kate which leads into a revelation that provides probably one of the biggest laughs I had in any movie in recent memory. Even the persistent attempts by Cal's son Robbie to convince his babysitter Jessica that the two of them are destined for one another was funny and poignant. Then as these types of movies often do it all comes to a head when everything converges and all secrets are laid out on the table with a predictably hilarious outcome.

Just about the only real negative I had towards the film is its over reliance on those sentimental cliches which are not that big of a problem actually until the ending arrives. After the appropriately dysfunctional confessional scene where everyone comes clean it unfortunately feels the need to wrap everything up with one character giving an impassioned speech that has a magic healing power to make all their troubles and differences just vanish. It is one of those scenes that was so on the nose with what it was trying to do that it induced a heavy amount of eye rolling from me during its duration. If it were not for that one speech, if they would have just resolved each of the character's individual issues with as much thought and respect that clearly went into the rest of the film then it would have made for a more suitable conclusion in my opinion. As it stands now, it is a fantastic little romantic comedy that gets most everything right from the casting down to the atmosphere but is just shy of sticking that landing in a satisfactory way. It by no means ends poorly, just a little too neatly compared to the complexities it was building up to.


What's on the disc?

I wasn't expecting much in the way of special features but even this was well below my expectations. With such a huge cast of very outspoken actors it is kind of baffling how little there is here. The couple of "interviews" we get are mostly fluff pieces that don't give any impression about any ones feelings on the film. A lack of an audio commentary is also sad given that many of the participants on the film are usually up for doing one. Then you have the very amateurish collection of deleted scenes that are good in their own right but seem to have been thrown together at the last second. Not an all together loss but I will warn anyone looking for some worthwhile features that give any insight into the making of the film to tread lightly.

Cal lives on the wild side for a while.


Steve and Ryan Walk Into a Bar (6:40 min) HD - Steve Carrel and Ryan Gosling on set at the bar which is the central hub for much of the activity in the film. They appear at first to be giving a candid interview together but within seconds the two of them start going on about how they are the only two actors in the film that matters along with some very self serving comments about each other. It is all in good fun but I kind of wished for a bit more relevant information from the two actors.

The Player Meets His Match (5:40 min) HD - Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling weigh in with their thoughts on finding soul mates, true love and whether or not any of it matters. Although I found most of what they had to say interesting (I particularly found Emma's insights into the value of good looks in a possible mate to be of interest...ahem), this was all hampered by some really poor editing choices. I know what you're thinking, who cares about editing in a promo reel? Well, when they are constantly cutting back and forth between HD and Standard-def quality interviews (that appear to have taken place months apart from each other) it feels kind of sloppy, almost like they were attempting to edit all these pieces together to try and create some sort of message that was never there. Anyway, it is fine for what it is and I am happy to have it regardless.

Jacob proceeds to give Cal more than just his opinion.

Deleted Scenes - HD - (12:27 min) This collection of deleted scenes are not playable individually unfortunately which only helps support my theory of how little effort was put into these features. How lazy can they be to not split up the deleted scenes?

- Hanna & Liz Discuss Richard HD - Hanna and Liz talk some more about Hanna's would be fiance.

- Liz Propositions Jacob HD - This was pretty funny, Liz tells Jacob what she plans on doing with his "junk".

- Apartment Hunting HD - Cal looks over his new apartment.

- A Bathroom Conversation HD - Cal confronts Jacob about his skills and asks for some help.

- Sage Advice HD - Cal asks a bartender for some life advice.

- No One Laughed at This Joke HD - Someone appears to be having fun with the naming conventions cause other than the fact that I didn't laugh at it either, the scene doesn't match the description.

- Jacob's Patter HD - Some extended berating of Cal after Jacob throws his shoes away.

- Jacob "Helps" Cal HD - More berating of Cal by Jacob as they shop for clothes.

- Sexting Her Patience HD - Robbie sends Jessica some inappropriate text messages.

- Toner Issues HD - Emily has some copy machine issues...huh?

- Long Legs HD - Emily gives Jessica some inside information about how Cal is a "Legs" type of guy.

- TV Junkie HD - Cal turns off the TV and his daughter Molly protests.

- Lowe's Is a Many Splendored Thing HD - Extended montage scene while buying supplies as Lowe's.

- Alternate Ending HD - A fairly funny callback to a scene between Hanna and Jacob but between Cal and Emily instead.

It's OK, I allow Ryan Gosling to hold my Emma...just this one time though.

Final Verdict:

Crazy, Stupid, Love will not set the world on fire. It is a very predictable but very entertaining look at what it means to find, lose and try to win your one true love. The more cliche parts of the film are heavily compensated for by the outstanding cast and a very breezy and witty sense of humor. The Blu-ray itself comes with fantastic picture quality and despite this not being a very audio heavy experience the sound is no slouch either. About the only negative for this package are the disappointing special features that offers no insight into the making of the film and almost spits on the faces of the films fans by providing some very poorly constructed and realized interviews with the stars. If not for the poor special features this would be a purchase recommendation but as it stands this one is squarely rooted in the rent it column. However, if you are a fan of the film and don't care about extra features then I would suggest picking it up.

Movie   -  B+
Video   -  A+
Audio   -  A
Extras  -  C+




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