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Cinemas - Film of the Week - 22/9/11

INTELLIGENT and sophisticated adult-oriented romantic comedies that don’t resort to gross-out humour are almost as scarce as Ryan Reynolds films in which the Canadian actor keeps his clothes on.

So Crazy, Stupid, Love is a rare treat, boasting pithy dialogue and exemplary performances from an ensemble cast, who explore the many winding paths to true love.

Glenn Ficarra and John Requa’s follow-up to I Love You Phillip Morris is hilarious, heartwarming and bittersweet, chronicling the ripple effect of impending divorce on different members of a family.

The script by Dan Fogelman is delightfully self-aware and pokes fun at convention and the good-looking cast.

When Ryan Gosling removes his top to reveal an impressively gym-toned body, co-star Emma Stone deadpans, “Seriously? It’s like you’re Photoshopped!”

And at the end of an argument, when a husband stands forlornly in the street and the heavens open, he mithers, “What a cliché!”

Crazy, Stupid, Love begins with Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) enjoying a meal with his wife Emily (Julianne Moore).

The silence between the couple speaks volumes and in the car on the way home, Emily confesses she slept with co-worker David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon) and wants a divorce.

Cal is dumbfounded.

“Almost 25 years of marriage and you’ve got nothing to say?” shrieks Emily.

The cuckolded husband seeks refuge at a cocktail bar where lothario Jacob Palmer (Gosling) takes pity and confidently assures Cal, “I’m going to help you rediscover your manhood.”

With expert guidance, Cal seduces feisty school teacher, Kate (Marisa Tomei).

Meanwhile, Jacob pursues law student Hannah (Emma Stone), who is impervious to his chat-up lines.

Back home at the Weaver house, Cal and Emily’s 13-year-old son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) declares his crush for 17-year-old babysitter, Jessica (Analeigh Tipton): “I love you. I’m pretty sure you’re my soul mate.”

Crazy, Stupid, Love elegantly interweaves the subplots, knotting them messily in a frenetic final 20 minutes that is as close as Ficarra and Requa’s film comes to a formulaic rom com.

Carell and Moore are wonderful, milking their characters’ tears of regret as the marriage comes apart at the seams.

Gosling demonstrates a light comic touch and screen chemistry with Stone is electric, including a hilarious recreation of an iconic 1980s film.

Rapport between Carell and Gosling is also strong, the latter taking one look at the emotionally shattered husband and despairing, “I don’t know whether to help you or euthanise you.”

Thankfully for Ficarra and Requa’s delightful film, it’s the former.

There’s a wonderful contrast between the cynicism of the older generation and the youthful exuberance of Robbie, who has never had his heart wounded and repeatedly humiliates himself in pursuit of Jessica.

He loves without fear or compromise. We could all learn a lot by his reckless example.