No one is particularly crazy or stupid in Glenn Ficarra and John Requa's sad-funny movie about love. The directing team ("I Love You Phillip Morris") has crafted a relatively tame romantic comedy with strong undercurrents of loss and longing.
With his hangdog expressions and deadpan lines, suburban husband Steve Carell sets the tone -- and exhibits more bromance chemistry with womanizer Ryan Gosling than with Julianne Moore, who plays his wife of almost 25 years. The most hilarious scenes involve Gosling's character trying to transform Carell's loser into a Lothario.
Love and relationships make Dan Fogelman's ("Cars" and "Tangled") script go round. The plot centers on a heartbroken Cal Weaver (Carell), who is happily married to his high-school sweetheart Emily (Moore) until she blurts out that she's had a fling with a co-worker (Kevin Bacon) and wants a divorce.
Cal hits the bar scene, where the club-hopping Jacob (Gosling) takes pity on the pathetic guy with the Supercuts hairstyle and New Balance white sneakers who can't stop saying "cuckolded" loudly and repeatedly -- a word not that funny when uttered the first or the fifth time. But Cal's metrosexual makeover will elicit some laughs.
Using the Weavers' marital discord as a trigger, the comedy also examines the relationships of everyone in their orb, including their 13-year-old son (Jonah Bobo), their Stanford-bound babysitter (Analeigh Tipton) and a recent law-school graduate portrayed by the ubiquitous Emma Stone. Establishing so many characters and love-links takes time, so the story plods forward until two surprising plot twists deliver a payoff that connects all the dots in a stroke of brilliance.
Depending upon your point of view, the movie's tone may seem quirky or just awkward. The comedy swings from dealing with honest emotions to the most contrived and sentimental of scenes, particularly Cal's show-stopping outburst at his son's middle-school graduation.
Cliches include the shattered glass of a framed photograph of the once-smiling married couple and the kid too wise for his years, although sometimes the directors flip overused conventions in unexpected ways. Cultural references to "The Karate Kid" and Mr. Miyagi-like mentoring seem trite, while the allusion to the closing-night performance of "Dirty Dancing" is fresh and amusing. The acting styles vary, too, with Marisa Tomei putting the "crazy" into her broad performance as one of Cal's sexual conquests.
Instead of expecting a laugh-out-loud comedy about fools for love, anticipate a quieter movie that reaffirms traditional values about finding and fighting for your soul mate.