Crazy, Stupid, Love, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell

Warner Bros. Pictures

Review in a Hurry: Steve Carell is a sad sack suburbanite. Ryan Gosling an über-cool urbanite. And both extremes find themselves in a romantic comedy about finding one's soul mate. Crazy, Stupid, Love supplies plenty of laughs but truly impresses in the low-key moments, revealing genuine warmth for its characters.

That they look like Emma Stone, Julianne Moore and Kevin Bacon is just an added bonus.

The Bigger Picture: Fortysomething Cal (Carell) has bailed on his life. After his spouse of 25 years (Moore) tells him she wants a divorce—and that she slept with another man (Bacon)—Cal literally falls out of a moving vehicle. So he starts hanging out at a singles bar where he meets Jacob (Gosling), a smooth thirtysomething who gets every woman he hits on.

Jacob decides Cal needs his help, partly because Jacob is a nice guy but mostly because he's simply tired of having to hear Cal whine on night after night about his failed marriage.

Let the man makeover begin!

"Be better than The Gap!" is Jacob's mantra.

Cal's transformation leads to one of the film's highlights. A random encounter with a "crazy" gal played by Marisa Tomei (hilarious and unpredictable). The setup is familiar—lonely dude gets freaky with a freaky gal—but Carell convinces as a big bundle of nerves and joy. Funny? Absolutely, but better than that, it's hard not to root for the guy.

Structurally, we're constantly dropping in and out of the lives of people who are all in some way or another obsessed with finding "the one." (Except Cal, who believes he did that 25 years ago and just wants her back.) As is standard for these stories, the characters lives seem unrelated, linked only by the city they reside in: a suburban-feeling Los Angeles.

While Crazy is an ensemble it's Cal's struggle to be the man his wife fell in love many years ago that resonates most. Carell is superb, never letting the jokes get in the way from allowing us to sympathize with Cal's heart ache.

Ryan Gosling has impressed as an actor (Blue Valentine), but Jacob might be his most likable part. He exudes the confidence of a star. Which is why when he admits to shopping QVC 24/7 it's still cool.

The supporting roles are all well cast. Stone (Easy A) is frazzled and lovely as a single gal. Moore makes her character's infidelity heartbreaking. Watch for a cameo by singer Josh Groban, schmucking it up as lousy boyfriend.

Peeling away the layers these people think they are in order to reveal the better person they can be ties the whole film together. This could have gone really cheesy, really fast. Some of the situations do seem born from a sitcom—like a teen babysitter who has a crush on Cal and whose son has a crush on her—but the script by Dan Fogelman and direction by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa slows things down to just observe their lives.

Past the crazy, and the stupid, is just a whole lotta love, actually.

The 180—a Second Opinion: A few scenes play way too big. Like, a car chase (really?) that feels out of place. Why do so many comedies feel the need to deliver such big moments when a story with characters we relate to makes pratfall gags unnecessary?

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