The characters in "Crazy, Stupid, Love" resemble the inhabitants of Garrison Keillor's mythical Minnesota hometown where: "the women are strong." Emily Weaver (Julianne Moore) is a working mom with enough independence that her husband Cal (Steve Carell) doesn't always know her whereabouts. Hannah is a newly minted lawyer who for personal reasons can ignore her first good job offer. Jessica is the Weavers' baby-sitter who can afford to work for free (“I don't want your slutty money”) when she doesn't approve of Mrs Weaver's treatment of Mr Weaver. And their son Robbie's eighth grade English teacher is secure enough in her position that she can give Mr Weaver the finger if she feels like it.
“The men are good looking” (Keillor). Womanizer Jacob is “the hot guy” who looks pretty impressive in bar or locker room, and once Hannah strips him of his shirt, “It's like you're photo-shopped!” Cal cuts a fine figure in a new suit once Jacob gets him to wear the correct size. Cal's friend Bernie has good taste in men's cologne. And Robbie, although his hair now resembles a “rag mop,” he figures on growing up good looking like his dad.
“And all the children are above average” (Keillor). Language that provoked a parent-teacher meeting concerning Robbie, would have been all too common at another school. Here the students are well mannered. Robbie had been put off by his parents' impending divorce, but he later redeems himself by advising his dad, “If you love her, then go get her back,” to which Cal replies, “Wow, how old are you?” Jessica gets advice from her well endowed classmate how to attract older guys.
The backbone of “Crazy, Stupid, Love” is Jacob advising Cal—who's making the bar scene now—on how to pick up women (“I don't know whether to help you or euthanize you.”) He compares his tutelage to that of the wise instructor in “The Karate Kid,” not knowing he'll eventually be seen as a better fit to the guilty party in The Scarlet Letter.
What goes around comes around.
There's a well known folk proverb that's oh, so applicable in “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” I'll list its companion proverbs too:
(Proverbs 26:20) “Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.” The baby-sitter isn't supposed to tell her parents about the Weavers' pending divorce, and Cal's office is kept in the dark for as long as he can hold off. Such a subject can divide their very friends.
(Proverbs 26:21) “As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife.” There was a simmering resentment over the guy “my wife is having sex with.” Eventually, there was open hostility between Jacob and Cal (“I'm having trouble understanding what's going on.”) When Bernie flies off the handle and crashes the party, there is a conflagration of them all (“Domestic disturbance.”)
(Proverbs 26:22) “The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.” When 13-year-old Robbie makes a public declaration of his love for 17-year-old Jessica, she is mortified.
(Proverbs 26:23) “Burning lips and a wicked heart are like a potsherd covered with silver dross.” When Cal gives an inappropriate come-on to a female bartender, she spits in the shot glass of liquor she hands him.
(Proverbs 26:24-25) “He that hateth dissembleth with his lips, and layeth up deceit within him; When he speaketh fair, believe him not: for there are seven abominations in his heart.” Cal's first actual pickup involved charming words, “You're cute and sexy,” mixed in with abominable ramblings like, “I want to show you off to my [not] ex-wife!” When he had to give account, he lied through his teeth.
(Proverbs 26:26) “Whose hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness shall be shewed before the whole congregation.” Cal's deceitful womanizing came back to haunt him and he had to do confession before the whole middle school assembly.
(Proverbs 26:27) “Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him.” From an engineering standpoint, this is potential energy and kinetic energy. Digging a pit is setting up your neighbor for a potential fall, while rolling a stone is actively setting in motion forces against him. In the movie the pit is the sunken area of a mall where Jacob tosses Cal's old shoes in preparing to dress him fit to kill. Eventually, Jacob himself will step into a yard of awaiting trouble. Rolling a stone (what goes around) was cinematically represented by Cal rolling when he jumped out of a moving vehicle rather than talk to his wife about the divorce. Eventually, he will be visited by an irate Bernie (comes around) acting before allowing someone to talk.
There is a second representation of this proverb when Jessica digs deep in her drawer to hide some compromising material (“I have a picture of you”) not figuring on her own exposure. Also when Cal and his target pickup lady go round and round over: “What do you do? I asked you first,” not realizing that one of their occupations will get them in trouble.
(Proverbs 26:28) “A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin.” Jacob is really a scumbag, the way he treats women, but laying it on thick to get them with his prepared pickup lines (“What can I say? They work.”)
Crazy, Stupid, Love
“Crazy” involves the audience relating to their own crazy culture, which is hard to discern when you're in it, so let me make a comparison to another culture, depicted by novelist William Caunitz:
he would visit Niki tomorrow. No! Tomorrow was Tuesday, bad luck for a Greek to plan
anything. This had been so since that Tuesday in the fifteenth century when Constant-
inople fell to the Turks. (135)
We can discuss bad luck Tuesdays as a cultural norm for Greeks, and consider its source, without necessarily debating the political or religious history of it. “Crazy, Stupid, Love” sets us in a climate where the sexual revolution was a success (“We won the second women started doing pole dancing for exercise”) but the humor occurs when an older cultural norm has the pole, when what goes around comes around. Or as a Greek proverb has it concerning persisting cultural behavior, “We have a saying, my friend: a man cannot erase what is written on his blood” (Caunitz 109).
When you see what the movie is trying to accomplish, then it makes sense. Cal and his kids put together a makeshift miniature golf course in their yard to remind Emily of their first date. It may also remind us of a world where the rules of the sexes were simpler. Cal moonlights trimming the vegetation of his old home. It evokes a bygone sexual scene which hadn't yet been allowed to grow wild like a jungle. Rekindling the gas pilot light makes the man feel like putting the spark back in his marriage. Mulling over the word cuckold evokes an older vocabulary that called things what they were.
Some of the costume shots involved people's feet, which are easier for us dense guys to relate to stylewise. The actors seemed to be all name-recognizable, even those in minor parts, and they gave worthy performances. There was some lively pop music spread throughout, e.g. “Just One Look.” The movie kept its focus and pursued it doggedly.
Expect the unexpected. If you go in with the narrow expectation of a screwball comedy, you may be put off when it forces you to think. It's serious in the sense that it will evoke wry smiles rather than belly laughs, though there are occasions for those too. The best plan is just to sit back and let the movie take you where it wants to go.
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(Unattributed quotes are taken directly from the movie under review.)
Proverbs quoted are from the King James Version. Orig. pub. in 1611. 1769 rev. Software.
Caunitz, William J. Black Sand. New York: Crown Pub., 1989. 1st ed. Print.
Keillor, Garrison. "Prairie Home Companion." Weekly syndicated radio program. Radio.
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Movie Mood: Serious Movie
Viewing Method: Other
Film Completeness: Looked complete to me.
Worst Part of this Film: Plot