After Emily (Julianne Moore) tells Cal (Steve Carell), her husband of 20-plus years, that she wants a divorce, she confesses she may be having a midlife crisis. "Can women even have midlife crises? In the movies, it's always men." In this movie, too. Yet another Hollywood romantic comedy to play up its awareness of genre cliché in a narrative which validates far more of those clichés than it deflates, Crazy, Stupid, Love makes the mistake of suggesting a path untrod, only to deliver a scramble of the familiar. Directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa were last seen as the auteurs of I Love You Phillip Morris, one of the smartest comedies of recent years and quite possibly the best gay relationship film ever made featuring Hollywood stars. Crazy, Stupid, Love isn't nearly as groundbreaking, but its love-positive dramedy is notably big-hearted, and enlivened by the work of a few good actors. Moore pops up mostly as a foil to Cal's effort to Regain His Manhood via new clothes and anonymous sex. He's tutored by Jacob (Ryan Gosling), a player who Changes His Ways when he falls for stunning law student Hannah (Emma Stone). Carell and Gosling have a nicely barbed chemistry together, particularly in the scene in which they establish their pupil/mentor relationship, using gangster-film lingo to cement a bond whose first destination is necessarily a shopping montage. That's the thing about movie clichés: As eager as filmmakers seem to be to show that they know the jig is up, sometimes that shit just works.
The playa (Gosling, left) and his pupil (Carell).
Opens at Metro and other theaters, Fri., July 29. Rated PG-13. 118 minutes.