MOVIE REVIEW: Crazy, Stupid, Love.

CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE.-- 4 STARS

Despite the current 49% divorce rate in the United States, don't let anyone tell you that there's such a thing as an easy divorce.  Even though money and finances are involved, it's the polar opposite of the saying "it's not personal, it's business."  Divorce is entirely personal.  While divorce may feel like liberation to some, it hollows others out.  Love and affection has been taken from them and it's hard to let that go.  Just ask that to Steve Carell and Julianne Moore's characters in Crazy, Stupid, Love. 

Don't get ahead of me, though.  Crazy, Stupid, Love. is not divorce drama like Kramer Vs. Kramer.  You're not watching courtroom proceedings and messy custody battles.  Crazy, Stupid, Love. is bigger than that and so much more.  It's about personal reinvention, mentoring, courtship, fighting for love, and the idea of soulmates.  It's incredibly fresh, funny, emotional, daring, and, for a romantic "dramedy," has more jaw-dropping twists than big budget thrillers.

Cal Weaver (Carell) gets the surprise of his life when his high school sweetheart wife of nearly 25 years, Emily (Moore), out of nowhere, wants a divorce and reveals that she's been sleeping with, David, a co-worker  (Kevin Bacon).  Stunned to nearly virtual silence, he moves out and starts spending his nights in a swanky L.A. bar, where his polo/mom-butt-jeans/New Balance shoe-wearing self does not fit in.  He goes every night and embarrassingly attempts to drink his sorrows away while people-watching and envying the game of smooth ladies man Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling).  Jacob notices, takes pity on Cal, and offers to help him rediscover and regain his manhood.

Jacob gives Cal a dramatic fashion makeover and begins to school him in how to turn the page, build up his confidence, and meet new women, including the foxy teacher Kate (Marisa Tomei).  Women never say no to Jacob's "you wanna get out of here?" routine.  A rare one that did is Hannah (Emma Stone), who's a law student tied to a older stuffy dork (singer Josh Groban, in his film debut).  She, at first, dismisses Jacob's game, but turns the tables and slowly sheds his guarded layers away.

The tricky thing is Cal still pines for Emily, despite embracing his new exterior in hopes to make her jealous.  He even sneaks by at night to do the gardening at his old house.  They still share two kids at home, including a impressionable 13-year-old son, Robbie (Jonah Bobo) who's hopelessly in love himself with his 17-year-old babysitter (Analeigh Tipton), despite her own crush on an older man.  If it all sounds intertwined and complicated, you have no idea.  Don't worry.  The movie doesn't bite off more than it can chew.  The twists that come about everyone's battles with love put the "crazy," in a good way, into Crazy, Stupid, Love. 

The performances, across the board, are phenomenal under co-directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, in just their second feature after the little-seen I Love You Phillip Morris from last year.  Steve Carell shows that he can put away "that's what she said" and play a dramatic character without jokes.  It's arguably his best film performance to date.  Marisa Tomei is absolute riot of a desperate teacher and Cal's first catch.  With the big top-lining cast above them, Jonah Bobo and Analeigh Tipton nearly steal the movie with their bouts of unrequited love, but this is Carell and Gosling's show.

Ryan Gosling makes womanizing look good and never becomes the "bad guy" of the movie, despite the nature of the role.  Emma Stone has always been a catch since Easy A.  Her and Gosling's seduction scene that follows the "photoshopped abs" moment that all of you women out there are falling for in the trailer is a brilliant piece of fading montage and adorable conversation.  It's one of the best and most crucial scenes of seductive courtship ever done in a romantic comedy.  From the opening John Legend song, the movie sets a sense of style and never lets up.  While some of the twists and moments may come across as a little "Hollywood" in the likelihood department, the ever-progressing and satisfying storylines will keep you on your toes until screen fades out.

LESSON #1: REINVENTION THAT IS SKIN DEEP IS JUST THAT-- Plenty of people, Steve Carell's character included, hit lows in their lives caused by big changes and seek reinvention.  Out with the old.  In with the new.  For some people all they ever accomplish is the shortcut of external reinvention.  You know what I'm talking about.  How many women out there feel empowered when they get a new haircut, but are still the same person they were before?  The same can be asked for guys that go to the gym.  True reinvention is deeper than just a new look and fresh exterior.  True reinvention is a whole new attitude, a new outlook,  the discarding and changing of habits, and not regressing to what was previous.

LESSON #2: FIGHTING FOR LOVE-- Pat Benatar was on to something when she says "love is a battlefield."  Winning the love of another is not easy.  Devoting yourself to them and maintaining that love is even harder.  The fight for love is a challenging roller coaster that is sometimes beautiful in its successes and other times ugly in its mistakes.  Who are you willing to fight for in the name of love?  What are you willing to fight for?  To what lengths are you willing to fight?  Knowing those answers about yourself is important, but following through with your actions, whether you win or lose that battle for love, is bigger.

LESSON #3: THE DEBATE ON THE EXISTENCE OF SOULMATES-- From every naive believer in true love, every brokenhearted and dark cynic, and everyone else in between, people either believe in the idea of soulmates or dismiss it entirely.  You either believe there is one person for everyone or believe there are just a lot of good situations and good fits to settle for.  There is no middle ground, but what happens when a believer starts to doubt and a cynic finds "the one?"  In Crazy, Stupid, Love., the story hinges on what happens to characters that do believe in soulmates reacting to those don't and vice versa.