L et’s clarify something about romantic comedies. 95% of the movies in this genre are absolutely worthless fillers that Hollywood executives use to make a quick buck on the susceptible demographic of overly empathetic and compassionate women and their reluctant boyfriends. What’s most baffling about this subgenre of movie is that there is a very reliable method one can use to determine if any of these movies will be worth seeing. Is the title of the movie also a commonly used phrase in American culture? That’s right No Strings Attached, She’s Out of My League, and When In Rome, I’m talking about you. Does the movie’s title feature the word “love”? Does the movie try to throw in some gimmick to differentiate the movie from an otherwise cookie-cutter plot (read: The Bounty Hunter)? And most importantly, does the movie feature Katherine Heigl in any way, shape, or form?
Of course, this convenient set of similarities within the romantic comedy genre doesn’t cover every base. It was for this reason that I was slightly apprehensive about seeing the movie Crazy, Stupid, Love, featuring the ever lovable Steve Carell. With the movie’s title meeting one of the aforementioned warning signs, I was on the fence regarding its quality. However, I was intrigued by positive feedback I received from my friends as well as the ever attractive Emma Stone. Not to mention that Katherine Heigl was nowhere to be seen.
Whenever I subject myself to these types of movies, on a subconscious level I inevitably compare them to the “ideal” romantic comedy in the movie High Fidelity, with John Cusack. What sets this movie apart from other romantic comedies is that it is much more than a simple romance coupled with a predictable set of circumstances that ultimately undermines the main character’s endeavors, leaves said character at rock bottom, and offers him or her a chance at redemption that finally brings the two characters together in a sappy cliché. These movies fail because they overlook the depth that their predecessors had in the themes that they were dealing with. The average character of a romantic comedy is very often a shell of a real person, and never seems to have any real motivation or reason behind any of his or her actions beyond the personality traits laid down in the opening montage. Successful romantic comedies such as High Fidelity offer reasons behind the actions and mistakes of its characters and doesn’t rely on sudden epiphanies of love to move the plot forward.
The reason I bring up High Fidelity is because Crazy, Stupid, Love reminded me of the former movie in many respects. Aside from the similarly amazing soundtracks, the characters in Crazy, Stupid, Love feel like genuinely real people. However, these same characters also carry with them exaggerated personalities that make movies fun to watch in the first place. By walking this fine line between believability and dramatization, Crazy, Stupid, Love manages to not collapse under the weight of its own script and dialogue. Even when the movie descends into what would otherwise be referred to as cliché, the movie carries with it a sense of honesty and sincerity that actually accentuates the movie’s message of perseverance and persistence. This movie even has the sense to address its cliché moments without undermining the scene itself. When Steve Carell’s character reaches his true rock bottom, the classic trope of a sudden downpour is invoked while Carell’s character himself addresses the rain as a cliché, almost breaking the 4th wall that John Cusack does countless times in High Fidelity.
It is also worth noting that Crazy, Stupid, Love, in my opinion, has one of the best plot twists of the year in movies thus far. Many times, plot twists have many not so subtle hints along the way that when one views the movie a second time, one feels that he or she should have seen the twist coming. However, other than a few passing references, this movie’s big twist ultimately remains surprising and unexpected.
Finally, it’s worth addressing the importance of having a good ending to a romantic comedy. We all know what the perfect ending is, right? The guy gets the girl and they all live happily ever after. Well, I’m going to argue otherwise. In my experience, the best romantic comedies don’t necessarily end in the happiest way possible. The best of these movies complete a character arc. They show a profound change in the way the main character views the world and allows him or her to be a happier person overall, with or without their love interest. That’s what makes movies such as High Fidelity and 500 Days of Summer such great movies. At the end of High Fidelity, we don’t know if John Cusack “gets the girl”, but we do know that he now understands what’s important in life and how he can make himself and everyone else around him happier. Meanwhile, in 500 Days of Summer, Joseph Gordon-Levitt ends up simply moving on, and similarly finding new meaning in his life. Crazy, Stupid, Love is no exception. Steve Carell reaches a similar realization about his life that regardless of whether or not he gets back together with his ex-wife, he’s a better person overall.
Despite the shallow nature of many romantic comedies, it is undeniable that the best of this genre has a cultural staying power that can resonate from one generation to the next. One only needs to cite the famous dinner scene in When Harry Met Sally to understand what I’m talking about. Great romantic comedies have a timelessness about them that is only possible when the movie recognizes the themes it is dealing with rather than bombarding the viewer with half funny quips and endlessly shallow pop culture references that stay relevant for about month. I would argue that, along with High Fidelity, Crazy, Stupid, Love has the potential to become an all time classic in the genre and can become one of the many movies that gets better with subsequent viewings.
I haven’t said much about the plot of Crazy, Stupid, Love. There’s a reason for this other than this being a jumbled and unfocused review. Describing the plot of this movie would only result in generalizations that would undermine the quality of the movie and make it seem more generic than it really is. Additionally, because this is a very belated review in terms of the movie’s actual release date, many of you have already seen the movie and made your own judgment of it. Therefore, the point of this review is to hopefully make you see the film for what it truly is: a potentially timeless movie with real characters, a well paced plot, great acting, and a story whose themes run deeper and are more meaningful than any other romantic comedy this year, with Midnight In Paris being the exception. So as Crazy, Stupid, Love enters its last couple weeks in theaters, I urge those of you who haven’t seen it yet to give it a shot and be surprised. At the very least, get your romcom fix before we’re subjected to I Don’t Know How She Does It and New Year’s Eve, or anything with Katherine Heigl.
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