I used to have this conversation about Ryan Gosling’s voluntary withdrawal from acting when The Gos was on his “break”, diddling around with a band (the unbearably hipster but not half-bad Dead Man’s Bones), and people were like, “Has he abandoned us? Were we not enough? Why isn’t he calling? He said he would call! WHY DOESN’T HE LOVE US ANYMORE?” You could feel the desperation whenever he came up in a conversation during this time. Hollywood was afraid that Ryan Gosling, arguably one of the greatest talents under forty, didn’t want it anymore. Also during this time, on the waning end of his break, right before he emerged from his fortress of solitude, I saw The Gos for myself.
We were in an out-of-the-way park not many people know about, in a part of town not known for its hipness. We were both reading. Or, he was reading and I was faking it. So for thirty minutes we sat about ten feet apart in silence, reading and having lunch. Now I’ve seen my share of celebrities. At parties, events, just out and about. I’m not easily impressed—if anything, I’m super hard on them, especially when I like the person I’m judging. I was studying The Gos looking for flaws. I wanted to see a hint of “look at me but don’t look at me”. I wanted unjustified paranoia, some arrogance, any chink in his armor of perfection. I wanted him to be less attractive in person, to be shorter, fatter—anything. But he wasn’t. He’s tall—six feet-ish. His physique seemed bigger—he’s not as slight as he looks on camera. He’s just as handsome in person.
That afternoon, he wasn’t coming across as arrogant or up his own ass or anything negative. He was quiet, really absorbed in his book, eating a sandwich without looking at it and not making a mess. I started packing up my stuff and he glanced across at me. He jutted his chin out at my book and I held it up for him to see. He smiled and showed me his book. For a split second, we were alone in this park smiling at each other. Two people enjoying an afternoon read. It was very, very normal. Very genuine. He did not expect me to recognize him—I think he thinks he got away with it in that moment, that I didn’t know who he was. And he was a touch shy. After the moment passed he looked away and kind of shrunk in on himself. There’s a reserve there despite the charm.
And that was when he became my Forever Love. Because for all the charm and charisma he has—and he has A LOT of it—The Gos doesn’t exactly like the spotlight. I don’t think he really wants to be this famous. But it’s happening anyway and he’s being gracious about it. Lainey has recently been pointing out that sometimes The Gos is being a bit Extra. To me, his fits and starts of Extra are born of nerves. When faced with that kind of attention, what do you do? Your options are 1) ignore it, but if you frown people will say you’re rude, 2) ignore it and smile and risk being called a famewhore, or 3) acknowledge it. The Gos often acknowledges it. He chooses to laugh it off. Which is maybe sometimes Extra, but there’s something refreshing about a famous actor who isn’t going to pretend like he doesn’t notice us staring.
So why is my Crazy, Stupid, Love review all about The Gos? Because he’s the best thing about the movie. Crazy, Stupid, Love, which was and is still the stupidest title, was in fact more serious than the advertising made it seem, however, the audience didn’t seem to mind. It’s a nice little movie. It’s well-made enough, well-written enough, well-acted enough. Everything is acceptable, but the casting is above-average good. Julianne Moore plays Emily, a woman who is experiencing a midlife crisis. She cheated on her husband, Cal (Steve Carell), who does his everyman routine to nice effect. They have children, including a 13 year old son, Robbie (Jonah Bobo, Choke), who looks believably enough as Carell’s son, and a young daughter whose name I never caught because she’s a non-entity. Robbie is in love with his 17 year old babysitter, Jessica (Analeigh Tipton of America’s Next Top Model), who is in turn in love with Cal. Cal is still in love with Emily, but he’s getting How To Be A Man Again lessons from hip young man about town, Jacob (The Gos), who falls for Hannah (Emma Stone), the one woman who tells him no.
The cast elevates this story and makes it interesting. You know from the beginning how everything will end up, and there was an unnecessary twist which I didn’t like—it made everything too pat. The movie would have been better served by a less-neat finale. Still, Crazy, Stupid, Love is watchable. Kevin Bacon and Josh Groban have glorified cameos as Emily’s partner in adultery and Hannah’s boring boyfriend, respectively. Groban acquits himself nicely in his first film role, but he has almost nothing to do, so I’m not sure how much of a gauge this is. Liza Lapira (Repo Men) steals every scene she’s in as Hannah’s best friend. Crazy, Stupid, Love gains a lot from these small parts, such as John Carroll Lynch’s (Shutter Island) part as Cal’s best friend who’s forced to de-friend Cal in the divorce, and Marisa Tomei’s turn as an unhinged teacher is really funny.
Tipton really stands out as Jessica. She captures all the overdramatic angst of a girl with her first serious (and seriously inappropriate) crush. And her face is so lovely! I know, I know, America’s Top Model and all, but photographing well doesn’t always mean that person is watchable on film. Tipton is very, very watchable. In fact, I’d argue she’s more watchable, in this movie, than Stone is. Don’t get me wrong—Emma Stone is as delightful as ever. Maybe it’s just that I’ve seen her do this character enough and am ready for something else, or maybe it’s that Stone might have a problem standing up amongst an ensemble, but I found Tipton to be the more engaging presence. In the big group scenes at the end I thought Stone kind of faded into the background while Tipton remained interesting.
But the presence that dominated it all was The Gos. Crazy, Stupid, Love was at its best when he and Carell were sharing the screen. It was at its next-best as long as The Gos was still involved. It got a bit draggy and slow when he disappeared for a while in the middle. His chemistry with Stone was hot enough that should they hook up in real life we’d all die from second-hand twee exposure. They’re too cute together. But his chemistry with Carell was the best. I don’t think The Gos was stretching overmuch here—he’s basically playing a caricature of the guy we imagine him to be—but he was genuinely funny and made the most of the mediocre material. Overall, I enjoyed Crazy, Stupid, Love for what it was—a movie of moderate means and moderate ambitions that is made interesting by a strong ensemble cast and The Gos’s inimitable charisma. Don’t leave us again, Ryan. Movies like this need you.