Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 30, 2011 12:41 pm 
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RYAN GOSLING AND EMMA STONE IN CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE

La ronde aux folles

Let's see now. A 13-year-old boy is in love with his 17-year-old babysitter, who is in love with his father. His mother has slept with a man at the office and falls out of love with his father, who is asked to move out. The father joins the bar scene and meets a skillful young womanizer who takes him in hand and trains him to seduce women, which leads to the father's sleeping with his son's English teacher. The womanizer by chance meets the boy's older sister and falls in love with her, abandoning his life of seduction. They all meet at the boy's graduation from middle school and everything turns out fine. This is a change for the team Ficarra and Requa, who wrote the dark Bad Santa and wildly ironic I Love You, Philip Morris. But Bad Santa was directed by Terry Zwigoff and this was written by Dan Fogelman who penned Cars and Cars2, so I don't know if we should look for a distinctive style, only a whiff of the zeitgeist. And a certain amount of charm and watchability. These filmmakers do know how to juggle a lot of balls in the air.

This movie smells of the times, but it's well-spoken, and to underline its niceness it has cast 40-year-old virgin everyman Steve Carrell as the father, and, in a minor stroke of genius, has prevailed upon Ryan Gosling, the risk-taking ex Mickey Mouse clubber, as the womanizer. The extravagantly gifted Gosling is the most interesting thing in this movie, which otherwise is a little too busy to engage the mind very much, but does consistently entertain. These skillful filmmakers have managed to blend an aw-shucks factor in depicting youthful romance with a raunchy contemporary touch. Taking some dubious advice at her high school, the babysitter shoots nude photos of herself that she sends to the father. This leads to the Internet kind of mayhem without actually involving the Internet. The babysitter will have nothing of the love of her 13-year-old charge, despite the fact that a nymphet-style union between her and the father would be even more risqué.

The adequate writing (which studiously avoids complexity) and serviceable directing do not interfere with the casting, which is the main reason for coming out to see this bustling romantic farce. There is a fine set of ladies on hand, starting with the adorable Analeigh Tipton as Jessica, the babysitter, continuing with hottie-of-the-moment Emma Stone as Hannah, the older sister, who makes Jake (Ryan Gosling) fall in love with her, and continuing upward with Julienne Moore as Emily, mother of Hannah and Robbie (Jonah Bobo), the middle schooler enamored of Jessica, and, to show off the real depth of the field, Marisa Tomei as Katie, Robbie's English teacher. Jake and Cal (Carrell) make an odd pair, but these are a couple of pros. Carrell is irresistible. You want to dismiss him, but he's just so darn real. And nice. As for Gosling, he's not Jon Hamm. and for a movie like this, that is a good thing. With that "almost photoshopped" torso, as Hannah amusingly calls it, those sharp clothes, the tanning salon sheen and lightly bleached and elegantly slicked-down hair, and above all with the devastatingly assured manner, Gosling is convincing as a ladies' man while obviously carrying his heart just a little off his sleeve. We know Jake's Casanova identity is a pose, even if skillfully assumed. When Hannah makes him swoon and abandon his one-night-stand ways, Gosling can let out all the heart-stopping romance we've seen in The Notebook and Blue Valentine. This is what makes his performance the most interesting one. He goes through the biggest change, and has only minutes to convey it on screen.

Young Robbie gets the lean end of the stick, as is only proper in a love roundabout with this many more adult players. His declarations of love for Jessica are repetitious and simple. His haircut, as his parents affectionately agree toward the end, makes him look like a sheep dog. This is a middle schooler plain and simple with no pretensions of Holden Caulfield deepness or Gus van Sant skateboarder chic. But his is the purest and most touching of loves, just as Jake's philandering is the coldest and most calculating. In between is Cal, who may benefit from Jake's clothing makeover as from sleeping with a few (actually nine) women, since it turns out that, only one step beyond the 40 year-old-virgin, Emily, his childhood sweetheart, is the only woman he has ever slept with. But in Steve Carrell's hands, Cal can only go from nice to nicer. I almost forgot Kevin Bacon, who plays the unenviable role of Emily's one-time office sex partner, David Lindhagen. When you hear a name like David Lindhagen, you know he's not a keeper.

To make it clear that he needs sprucing up, Cal wears New Balance shoes (love those negative product placements) and suits and pants two sizes too big for him. Jake, who wears his suits a size too small just like Justin Timberlake, sets him straight with dark colors and a layered look. It's funny how adding machismo has this feminizing side, of fashion advice. Sociological details aside, this multi-generational love comedy provides enjoyable laughs without sacrificing good taste, and nowadays that's pretty rare.

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