I believe Romantic Comedies like Crazy, stupid, Love are often responsible for the genre getting a bad rap. There are plenty of good things, but nothing is great, and there’s some troubling narrative choices.
First, the good things. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone have amazing chemistry on screen, though, unfortunately, we don’t get enough of them. The twenty minutes we do get are magic. Their banter is great right off the bat, as though they live on the same wavelengths. They take fairly pedestrian dialogue and turn it into entertaining scenes loaded with sexual tension. These actor pairings are what make romcoms wonderful.
The notable portion of the film is the big backyard reveal scene. From Steve Carell taking Julianne Moore back to their first date, to discovering that Emma Stone is their daughter and dating Ryan Gosling, to the [troubling] babysitter reveal. They clashed together superbly, and it is one of the few things the script did well. No question it is the best scene of the film.
Which brings us to what doesn’t work.
Steve Carrell and Julianne Moore did not work for me. In a way, it makes sense that they don’t have any chemistry at all. It fits the story that they got married way too young and it wasn’t meant for that long term. That doesn’t entirely excuse their performances, though. The major issue with Carrell is that it doesn’t feel like it’s Cal in the movie. It feels like Michael Scott going by a different name, which describes his typecasting. Which is unfortunate. Carrell has some range and can act well.
Though we come up to the inexcusable part of the movie: the entire babysitter storyline. Crazy, Stupid, Love is a prime example of why older man/young girl love plotlines are predatory, creepy, and gross. These stories teach young kids all the wrong lessons about love and normalize problematic ideas around mature dating.
The kid chases after the babysitter the whole movie, glorifying her and putting her on a pedestal. He only professes his love and never gives her any reason to love him back. He doesn’t grow because of the rejection, in fact he doesn’t change at all. Despite all that, he is rewarded by her in the end with her
naked photos child pornography! That is the wildest way to conclude that plot.
First, she didn’t learn she was doing something wrong by taking those photos. The film itself never even questions that what she did was inappropriate, nor does any character. Instead, she is repeatedly objectified and sexualized. I’m going to sit in my Psychology Armchair and guess that Dan Fogelman wanted to have his own babysitter give him nude photos, therefore in his movie the kid gets exactly that.
That whole plot is disturbing, from its bankrupt morality to the bad writing. It’s a stain on the film, ruining what otherwise could have been a nice RomCom romp.