I remember when that movie “500 Days of Summer” came out, and a bunch of media outlets were saying that it was one of the first romantic-comedies to be made with the guy in mind. I took the bait and checked it out. As it turns out, those media outlets were full of crap and the critics who said it was the first romantic-comedy for guys are obviously some sucker-for-love men who are still tripping about that one girl in high school who wouldn’t give them any type of play.
In the months and days leading up to the release of “Crazy, Stupid, Love”, I heard no such thing. Nobody was saying this was a romantic-comedy made with the man in mind, so imagine my surprise when I saw the movie.
“CSL” succeeds at being a romantic-comedy guys can get into because it doesn’t make love soft or easy, as most men who have been in love know it to be. I imagine a lot of this has to do with the fact that the film is the work of not one but two male directors, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. It’s as though they were trying to fit in every experience they had or heard about love and marriage through each of the three male protagonists.
There’s the young, naive idealistic love found in the teenage Robbie (played by Jonah Bobo). There’s the jaded, cynical, I-never-want-to-fall-in-love-because-I-did-I-got-hurt-and-it-sucks from the middle-aged Cal (played by Steve Carrell) who from the very beginning is trying to figure out how to deal with divorcing his wife (played by Julianne Moore). And then there’s the love-is-for-lames ethos of Jacob (played by Ryan Gosling) who tries to help Cal get over his divorce by pushing him into the lion’s den of bachelorhood.
Eventually, we see the two switch places. Jacob falls in love, Cal gets fully acclimated to the life of a bachelor, becoming a bonafide ladies man. Both depictions are as honest as I’ve ever seen, and intertwining the evolution of their attitude adjustments is what provides the balance most romantic-comedies are missing.
I would pay money to watch “Crazy, Stupid, Love” and not just matinee money, full-price, Friday-night-date-night-order-the-tickets-in-advance-on-Fandango-and-pay-the-extra-service charge money. The reason I enjoyed the movie is because it wasn’t short-changing me when it came to emotional range and that’s the problem with most male characters in romantic comedies. I don’t want to see a man fall in love with a girl to the point where he can’t keep it together and loses damn near everything else in life, because that’s not honest. I don’t want to see a man whose heart is so cold he can’t manage to fall in love with the perfect woman even though she’s staring at him right in the face, because that’s not honest. And I definitely don’t want to see the movie where the man eventually gets the girl because he worked out whatever issues he had, because that’s not honest either.
In real life, we don’t always get the girl, it’s not always our fault, and if we do always get the girl, we might want to find a way to keep her instead of trying to get another one. Love is hard and complicated and dealt with in different ways by different men. “Crazy, Stupid, Love” understands that.