Dir. John Requa and Glenn Ficarra
(2011, PG-13, 118 min)

Crazy Stupid Love is a breezy, charming 90-minute romantic comedy uncomfortably stretched to two hours. It opens with Steve Carell and Julianne Moore as a couple married for twenty-five years, and at a nice restaurant one evening she unexpectedly blurts out that she wants a divorce. She has been having an affair with her co-worker, David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon), who for the purposes of the screenplay could as easily be called David Funnylastname. So begins a long and winding road towards an inevitable happy ending.

As Cal (Carell) struggles to put his life back together, he meets a charming lothario, Jacob (Ryan Gosling), who wears designer clothes and is skilled in the art of seducing women in upscale bars – though if you’re a well-dressed man who looks like Ryan Gosling, chances are “Hello” will do the trick. Jacob vaguely explains later on that his father was a successful businessman, which is apparently why he can afford a lifestyle that disdains the Gap without ever seeming to have a job to go to. One evening he meets Hannah (Emma Stone), a law student preparing for the bar exam who does the unthinkable: she turns him down. She’s currently dating a lawyer (Josh Groban) she doesn’t seem to like all that much. There’s also a subplot about Cal’s 13-year-old son Robbie (Jonah Bobo), who is in love with his babysitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton), who is secretly in love with Cal.

The problem is not that there are too many characters or storylines. The hyperlink format worked well for Love Actually (and has been dishonorably copied in He’s Just Not That Into You, Valentine’s Day, and New Year’s Eve). The problem is that the characters are forced to converge in an unnecessary string of coincidences in the last third of the film, and from there it’s a dour slog until recriminations lead to romantic gestures lead to reconciliations. The film needs about twenty minutes lopped off the back end; it’s the feeling of being told a joke you’ve heard before, and you’re waiting impatiently through the belabored setup for the punchline. Nevertheless, the rest of the film is likable and filled with appealing actors giving strong performances, especially Gosling, who is effortlessly suave, and Stone, who radiates intelligence; she’s the kind of actress I’m not only happy to see in a movie, but makes me kinda wish she were in every movie. Directors John Requa and Glenn Ficarra (I Love You Phillip Morris) and especially writer Dan Fogelman need only have trusted the talent at their disposal and kept it simple.