Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Cowboys and Aliens wasn’t really getting the top notch reviews, and The Boy is a hard sell on “high concept” movies anyway, so I took him and The Flower to see the new Steve Carell flick Crazy, Stupid, Love. And that punctuation (including the period) is part of the title.

It’s a simple premise: Middle-aged, nerdy Cal and his wife Emily are splitting up, and Cal ends up under the tutelage of Jacob, a top-notch player who shows him how to score women. Meanwhile, Jacob has his eye on the sexually modest Hanna, and 17-year-old babysitter Jessica has a crush on Cal while fending off the advances of Cal’s 13-year-old son Robbie.

So, of course, it’s not the plot but the execution.

This is a fairly light movie. Carell is pleasant, of course, and likable even in his wimpy mode, and he’s supported by Julianne Moore, who seems pleasingly vulnerable in this role. Ryan Gosling plays Jacob, managing to be charming and strong without seeming sleazy, sort of doing the opposite of his Lars and the Real Girl role. Analeigh Tipton (Jessica) and Jonah Bobo (Robbie) are both very appealing, as well, and the supporting cast includes Kevin Bacon, Beth Littleford and John Carroll Lynch. Oh, and Emma Stone as “good girl” Hannah and Liza Lapira as her slutty friend are a delight.

The comedy moves pretty quickly and consistently, too, with no serious lags or lulls. It’s not entirely fluff, as we do see some of the consequences of (multiple, frequent) casual sex, but obviously not the worst ones (or it would cease to be a comedy, most likely). It highlights some of the crazy, stupid aspects—but not really of love so much as sex and infatuation.

There are some technical issues. One of the plot points involves Jacob’s strategy of always buying a girl a drink, for example, when everyone knows you don’t buy a girl a drink. This sets up a nice awkward moment for Carell to riff on, though, so we can overlook it, along with some of the other aspects of Jacob’s “game” that seem improbable.

A more serious issue, to my mind, is the ease with which Carell’s character, Cal, falls into his new lifestyle. Given the sort of person he is portrayed as being, his history as we learn it, and his reaction to  circumstances later on, I don’t know if I really buy that. I also don’t know if the movie’s resolution makes sense, given all that.

There’s another, less obvious issue that raises its head twice in this movie, with regard to male/female relationships. In both situations (involving different characters), a female becomes unhinged because her relationship with a male didn’t work out the way she thought it would.

Now, obviously, this is true to life enough.

In one case, though, we’re more inclined to believe that the character is a little unstable, while in the other case, the character is meant to be admirable. But from what we’re shown, both cases involve the woman making assumptions that are never stated anywhere, and in both cases we’re invited to blame the males for this.

In one case, a one-night stand, this is ridiculous. The other case involves a long-term relationship—but one in which we’re given no reason to even understand the woman’s attraction to the man, except as a demonstration of her superior character, much less why she would have the expectations of him she does—except, again as a demonstration of her relative superior value.

Not to say I haven’t known hot chicks who went for less-than-hot guys because they valued kindness, stability and all the other things that aren’t supposed to turn women on, and who didn’t end up being just as badly used by them as they would have been by bad boys. But just that the movie doesn’t show us any depth, so it sort of looks like women have no responsibility for relationships, men are just supposed to meet their needs (however unspoken), and it’s men’s fault for not doing so.

Come to think of it, that might have been the over-arching message of the film.

Can’t say I approve of that.

But I’m over-analyzing things, I suppose. It’s a cute movie, with plenty of laughs. You’ll probably enjoy it. Both The Boy and The Flower did, as did I.

There was a distinct shortage of both cowboys and aliens, however.

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