Saturday, July 30, 2011

Crazy Stupid Love (2011)

You better be listening to this Cowboys & Aliens, because this is how you live up to your film's title. Crazy Stupid Love is yet another romantic comedy to come out this year, but I have to say it's actually a very refreshing take on the genre that mixes together great situational comedy moments along with human drama that is very relatable. And you definitely can do no wrong with a cast like this, too.

Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) is left with the stunning news that his wife Emily (Julianne Moore) suddenly wants to divorce him after she cheats on him with her business partner David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon). Cal soon receives help from charming, womanizing guru Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling) so he can redeem his relationship personality. Meanwhile Jacob has doubts about his constant pick-ups when his advances fail on a girl named Hannah (Emma Stone). In addition, Cal and Emily's son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) is making advances on his babysitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton), who is four years older than him. Everything soon becomes intertwined and it certainly lives up to the ultimate potential outcome of what the film's title promises. And boy towards the end does it promise!
Seeing Steve Carrell in a more light-hearted comedy is mostly rare, but he has been able to show his potential in this sub-genre before when he starred in Little Miss Sunshine. Carrell finds a perfect balance between the serious and humorous sides of his character, and it is definitely his most realistic and human performance since his surprising supporting turn in Little Miss Sunshine. Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, and Marisa Tomei round up the female train of this amazing cast, and they all turn in terrific performances by also blending together very human scenes along with spot-on comedic timing. And I can never get enough of seeing Kevin Bacon starring in more movies each year because he's one of the most underrated actors in the business today. But the real standout is definitely Ryan Gosling. He usually isn't very comedic in most movies he stars in, but here his charming charisma is combined with very witty lines, and they're both blended together perfectly, as he turns in one of the best performances of his career.

Glenn Ficarra and John Requa direct this film with a very realistic vision as they balance the differing tones of dark comedy and human drama with great ease and never let them crash into each other in abrupt manners. It's interesting to see one of the writers of the Disney animated film Bolt be the writer behind this film, but it's a move that surprisingly works. Screenwriter Dan Fogelman's script is filled with witty one-liners for nearly every main character, but it also balances the multi-faceted story arc along with the transitions between the movie's themes involving the sweet,witty,and very realistic subject manner.
Crazy Stupid Love is without a doubt the best romantic comedy I've seen this year. Everything is solid from the very realistic performances from the amazing cast to the brilliant balance of scenes involving situation comedy and real human drama. A must see for any filmbuff out there, but I wouldn't really call this a date movie because the trailer is misleading on that subject.

Final Grade: B+

Friends With Benefits (2011)

Today we are all stuck in a world that is plagued with predictable,cliched romantic comedies that make us feel that staring at a blank tv screen would be a more enjoyable experience. Even an eerily similar film called No Strings Attached suffered from that said description. However, Friends With Benefits, even with a plot that almost directly mirrors No Strings Attached, takes a different and much bolder approach by poking fun at those cliches while still intentionally carrying on the ploy that the film itself is one big cliche. But if you take time to think about that, it's pretty much the whole point.

Dylan Harper (Justin Timberlake) is a newbie to New York City when he becomes the newest art director for GQ with the help of executive recruiter Jamie (Mila Kunis). The two immediately bond and they share that they're both emotionally damaged because their relationship pasts don't have the greatest track records. To avoid the cliches of Hollywood romantic comedies, the two decide that they abide by the "No Emotions, Just Sex" kind of relationship. However, things do get complicated between both of them, and the film itself intentionally turns into a cliche but in a very sweet and funny way.

Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis have deliciously sweet chemistry between each other to carry this film. You can constantly point out moments into the film's fast-paced running time that they're both having a blast with the material they're given. Mila is very energetic and when you match that with Timberlake's charismatic charm, it's a pairing that never loses its mojo and has you laughing throughout. Besides the the Timberlake/Kunis duo, the supporting cast is quite remarkable. Woody Harrelson turns in some hilarious quips as a gay sports editor at GQ, and Patricia Clarkson delivers a commendable performance as Jamie's sweet but sometimes risque mother. But for me the real standout in the supporting cast was Richard Jenkins as Dylan's sweet but Alzheimer's stricken father. Jenkins nails down the emotional core of the film but has a very sweet scene with Timberlake that might resonate with you because of the way he delivers it. Add on some funny cameos from Shaun White,Jason Segel,and Rashida Jones,too,which were all random but all executed perfectly.

Will Gluck directs this film with a very fast pace and plays along with the cliches in one of the most creative quick-witted ways I've seen in awhile. With this film and Easy A, Gluck has turned into the best director in the present day that can take typical cliches of a certain type of comedy sub-genre, and turn them into extremely clever comedies that put a new spin on the genre it's already satirizing. The dialogue is very fast-paced and clever, especially with it's numerous instances of meta talk. Thank god for the highly underrated comedy series Community for bringing that kind of humor back to us.

Friends With Benefits is definitely one of the best romantic comedies of the year, especially for the fact that it takes the bold strategy of satirizing the cliches of its own genre. Very electric chemistry between the two leads along with some very funny and sometimes sweet performances from the supporting cast combined with Will Gluck's quick-witted direction make this one of the surprise comedies of the summer. Even if the film is one big cliche, don't avoid it because it has potential to be a sleeper hit this summer.

Final Grade: B