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Movie Review

When a middle-aged married man wears dingy athletic shoes to take his stiletto-clad wife to an elegant restaurant, it's a likely sign that he's gotten a little negligent and overly comfortable in the relationship. Frumpy, sensibly shod fortysomething Cal Weaver gets very uncomfortable, however, when Emily, his frustrated wife of almost 25 years, abruptly tells him she wants a divorce. And that she's having an affair with a co-worker.

Cal refuses to discuss the situation or her lover, David, though. Just hand over the papers to sign, he says, and he'll be out of the house and Emily's life.

"Just stop talking!" he yells, seconds before throwing himself out of their still-moving car.

Disoriented and grieving, Cal hits the singles club scene, loudly bemoaning his marital blow-up to every bored, mildly irritated woman he meets. As the very definition of unsmooth, he hasn't dated in decades. And it's not just the women who take notice of that little fact. He's so pathetic looking, in fact, that Jacob, a young, good-looking womanizer takes him under his Lothario wing, vowing to help Cal rediscover his manhood.

Of course, manhood to Jacob means amassing as many one-night stands as possible. To help Cal achieve that goal, Jacob teaches him all of his pick-up lines, guiding him through a complete fashion makeover in the process. The New Balance sneakers and baggy suits were a sign of despondent resignation, right? Surely it's classier to chase pretty skirts while wearing tailored Armani.

Cal's hopelessly romantic 13-year-old son, Robbie, meanwhile, is telling his dad to fight for his true love—that is, Emily, Robbie's mother. The teen says he needs some inspiration for his own unrequited love: He's hopelessly and relentlessly smitten with Jessica, his 17-year-old babysitter who in turn is hopelessly and relentlessly smitten with … Cal.

As for Jacob, he finally meets his match in Hannah, a young law student who's hardly impressed by his cheesy come-ons. But when Hannah's straight-laced "human Valium" boyfriend doesn't propose to her as expected, suddenly a one-night stand with a hot guy from a bar seems like a rite of passage.

Here's the recap roadmap: David's having an affair with Emily, who is divorcing Cal, who is taking Jacob's advice to hook up with random club-hoppers, one of whom makes Jacob's heart go boom-boom-boom while Robbie pines for Jessica who pines for Cal. Did I mention that one of Cal's conquests is Robbie's English teacher? And should I tell you who, exactly, Hannah is?

No. And wow. This is going to get ugly.

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Positive Elements

Despite—or, more likely, because of—Cal's "therapeutic" tomcatting, he feels emptier than ever. He realizes his fault in the crumbling marriage and sees that he should have fought like everything for their relationship. He's loved Emily every minute of every day since they were 15, even when he's "hated" her. And through his overly familiar inattention, we see the importance of nurturing a relationship at all stages, with both small gestures and large displays of affection.

Robbie loves his parents and tries hard to comfort both of them, even while in a devastating emotional spot himself. And his adolescent love for Jessica, though misguided, is indicative of his tender, dedicated heart. He's all about commitment, this one. And he pulls out the big guns when he confronts his mother's lover, vowing to him that his dad is a better man on every level, and that he won't stop fighting for his wife.

Cal does stop fighting for Emily. And he does so in a pretty egregious way. But I have to give him a bit of credit here for realizing his mistakes and taking up the cause once again. I can also laud him for forcefully resisting the idea of one of his kids falling for a promiscuous lover. (Never mind, for the moment, that he himself has become that kind of person.) He encourages Robbie to believe in true love when the boy becomes momentarily disillusioned.

Jacob, who once viewed in-love couples as pathetic losers, learns to like wearing the very (relational) clothes he's been trying to rip from Cal's personality: commitment and responsibility.

Spiritual Content

God is dragged into a sleazy discussion about sexual ecstasy.

Sexual Content

Principally and repeatedly, the beauty of marital sexuality is exchanged for cheap encounters meant to numb, not nurture. Jacob, who has slept with and objectified enough women to populate a small country, is shocked and then amused when Cal tells him he's had sex with only Emily. Cal, ensnared by the idea that sexual and personal success can be equated with sleeping around, pursues multiple women, having sex with close to a dozen of them during his separation from his wife. And, of course, you already know about Emily's adulterous indiscretions.

Cal and Kate (the English teacher) kiss graphically and somewhat comically, awkwardly touching their tongues together. Boisterous foreplay includes Kate jumping on Cal. They grope each other breathlessly, and it's said that she performed oral sex on him for nearly an hour when he suffers anxiety-related erectile dysfunction.

We know exactly what's going on by way of Jessica's shocked expression when she walks in on Robbie huddled under his comforter in a darkened bedroom. Mortified, he yells at her to leave and, equally mortified, she does. But later he tells her that he thinks only of her while he masturbates. And then he goes further by announcing his habit to the whole school (during an 8th-grade graduation speech).

"I'm not ashamed of it either," he insists as he's pulled away from the podium.

One of Jessica's classmates is known for having lots of sex with older guys, so Jessica seeks her advice regarding how to make Cal think of her as a woman instead of a little girl. Her directive? Taking nude pictures of herself and giving them to him. We see Jessica (from her shoulders up and calves down) awkwardly doing so. She never gives them to Cal, though. After her mom finds them and her dad assaults Cal because of them, thinking he knows about them, she ultimately hands them over to … Robbie.

These should "help you get through high school," she says. Then she kisses his cheek.

In a locker room sauna, Jacob stands nude in front of Cal for an extended period of time, casually talking. (Cal's head blocks the camera's view of Jacob's midsection.) When Cal asks him to cover up, Jacob refuses—right before Cal passes out from the heat in the room, his head landing on Jacob.

Jacob is seen leaving the bar with a parade of willing women, sometimes two at a time. When it's Hannah's turn, we're made to understand that she's striving to be considered sexually dirty. (She's insulted when her friend says her life is rated PG-13.) She emphatically tells Jacob that she's "R-rated sexy," then sets out to prove it. Extended scenes show them in and out of bed, cuddling, kissing and making out while he's shirtless. It's implied that they eventually have sex.

Male genitalia is referred to crudely. Homosexuality is joked about, as is oral sex and a mother-daughter ménage à trois with the infamous womanizer Wilt Chamberlain. Women wear low-cut dresses and short skirts, and much is made of Jacob's sculpted abs. Pole-dancing for exercise is referred to as a "win" for males in the battle of the sexes. It's implied that Robbie's seen pornographic videos on the Internet.

Violent Content

Men punch, tackle and otherwise attack one another. (The cops are called to break up the brawl.) Cal purposely rolls out of a moving vehicle, bruising and scratching himself. Jacob and Cal slap each other's faces in manly man gestures of both camaraderie and superiority. Jacob jokes about euthanasia. Men half-jokingly says things like they'll shoot someone in the face or beat someone's brains out. Robbie vows to kill anyone who hurts Jessica.

Crude or Profane Language

Robbie's English class reads The Scarlet Letter, prompting him to go on an in-class tirade about all those "a‑‑holes" falling in love. He repeats the word over and over again. We also encounter one full and two partial f-words, and an obscene finger gesture. There are about 10 s-words. God's name is abused at least 25 times; Jesus' around six or seven. Other language includes one or two uses each of "h‑‑‑," "d‑‑k," "d‑‑n," and "b‑‑ch."

Drug and Alcohol Content

Multiple scenes occur in a bar, where we not only see folks drink and get drunk, but we also see the camera going out of its way to ogle the bottles of booze lined up around the room. Hannah digs for Dutch courage by guzzling the hard stuff whenever she's upset or nervous. Cal tries to drown his sorrows in it. Jacob insists on buying women drinks even when they at first refuse. Kate, who tells Cal she's a recovering alcoholic five years sober, apparently makes a habit of tempting herself by hanging out at bars. Hannah and Jacob go to a liquor store. Valium is joked about.

Other Negative Elements

Appearance, sexual prowess and youth are tantamount to success and identity in Jacob's superficial world. Within minutes of meeting for the first time at a bar, he tells Hannah that she'll gradually age, be less attractive to men and someday regret not sleeping with him while she could. Later he tells Cal that there aren't many benefits to being middle-aged.

Though it's charming, Emily lies to Cal, telling him on the phone that she needs help with a pilot light. (She just wants to hear his voice.) Cal desperately lies to Emily about how he knows Kate. Cal's co-workers rejoice when they discover Cal is "only" getting a divorce—thinking he had cancer.

Cal is the pot calling the kettle black when a sudden relationship revelation prompts him to attack Jacob for being a "lowlife." Robbie is disrespectful to his dad—though Cal's behavior at times can seem indefensible. Jacob stiffs Cal with a nearly $900 bar tab. One of Cal's guy friends casually "dumps" him during his separation.

Conclusion

Albert Einstein was spot on when he said, "Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love."

That is, healthy couples are attracted to each other for good and lasting reasons. And even couples who start out strong must remind themselves of those reasons, nurture and cling to each other, and choose to make every day of their relationship meaningful.

Crazy, Stupid, Love does make that statement. Sort of. I guess. Producer Denise Di Novi told traileraddict.com, "[This film] is about three generations of crazy, stupid, love. Whether you're a middle-aged married couple, a young couple in their twenties or teenagers with first love, it can be crazy and it can be stupid. In fact it usually is. This film tells the story of how great it is, but how hard it is to really make it work with another person—but how worth it it is to really hang in there. … It can be really tough to find the [right] person and really tough to hang in there when you do find the person. It takes courage and perseverance, and that's really what the movie's about."

So is it courage or perseverance that prompts a 17-year-old girl to take nude pictures of herself for a fortysomething father and then finally give them to his 13-year-old son? Or does that just represent the crazy and stupid parts of the equation? And if it's the latter, then why is her "grand gesture" presented as one of the movie's emotional pivot points?

Is it courage or perseverance that makes a devastated husband sleep with a string of other women while he's separated from his wife, to whom he insists afterwards that he "never stopped trying" when it came to their relationship?

The point? Crazy and stupid don't just trump love here, they kick it to the curb and then run over it with a street cleaner.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

PG-13

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Steve Carell as Cal; Ryan Gosling Jacob; Julianne Moore as Emily; Emma Stone as Hannah; Marisa Tomei as Kate; Kevin Bacon as David Lindhagen; Analeigh Tipton as Jessica; Jonah Bobo as Robbie; Beth Littleford as Claire; John Carroll Lynch as Bernie; Liza Lapira as Liz; Josh Groban as Richard

Director

Glenn Ficarra ( FocusI Love You Phillip Morris)John Requa ( FocusI Love You Phillip Morris)

Distributor

Warner Bros.

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

July 29, 2011

On Video

November 1, 2011

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Meredith WhitmoreSteven Isaac

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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