<<Home Niagara Falls Reporter Archive>>


By Michael Calleri

In the edgy new romantic comedy "Crazy, Stupid, Love," everyone's just a little bit off-balance. This is as it should be, because the directing team of Glenn Ficcara and John Requa also made "I Love You Philip Morris," and co-wrote but did not direct "Bad Santa," which is one of the most cynical movies I've seen.

The screenplay for "Crazy, Stupid, Love" is by Dan Fogelman, whose previous work includes more family-friendly fare such as "Cars."

We have a husband (Steve Carell) who, after a long marriage -- one he thought was just fine -- is informed by his wife (Julianne Moore) that she wants out. She has cheated on him, and the cheating feels really good. Before he can say that perhaps the marriage can be saved, she has bolted for sexier pastures.

Carell blames himself and believes that if he were a better lover, or listener, or something, he'd still be happily married. He willingly puts himself in the hands of a handsome, muscular fellow, played by Ryan Gosling, who's the kind of guy who has no qualms about flashing his manhood in the locker room. He's proud of his display and proud of the women he's bedded.

The notion here is that there are things to be learned about meeting women, picking them up, satisfying them in bed, and maybe getting a second date. Are there? Well, if you look and act like the Gosling character -- which Carell doesn't -- getting dates with women is easy.

Gosling becomes Henry Higgins to Carell's Eliza Doolittle. The screenplay is really just worked-over George Bernard Shaw with added nudity and sex.

This doesn't mean the satire is suspect. Some of the jokes are dripping with venom, and they sting, because they have keen truths to them.

There are second- and third-tier stories about a babysitter and nightly trysts, and sometimes the clutter becomes a little bit annoying, but overall, "Crazy, Stupid, Love" succeeds because it has comic bite.

Gosling is especially good, and Moore and Carell play their parts with an understanding that in the world of love and marriage, there really are no rules. Once a partner becomes bored, if these partners stay together, there's nothing on the horizon except misery, especially in today's throwaway society.

Just the idea that you can dress for success in a pick-up bar is ripe for mockery, and this jaundiced movie is spot-on in targeting some truths about relationships. Even after a head-to-toe makeover, Carell still looks like the man who got dumped. That loss will always hang over him, hinder him, and hurt him.

The romantic fantasies of those Rock Hudson and Doris Day pictures have long been demythologized. "Crazy, Stupid, Love" proves its awareness in its depiction of a one-night stand that features Marisa Tomei. It avoids silliness for a smack of cold reality. Sometimes in romantic comedies, wickedly funny honesty really is the best policy.

Sara Forestier is a French actress who will be 25 in September. She has more than a dozen feature film roles to her credit, and she already has two Cesar awards, which is France's equivalent of the Oscar. One is from 2005 for most promising actress and the other is for best actress for her new film, "The Names Of Love." You may have seen her in "Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer" or "Wild Grass." She has a distinctive on-screen quality -- high energy, sometimes angry, always talkative.

Director Michel Leclerc uses these attributes wonderfully in "The Names Of Love," a sharp comedy in which Forestier dazzles in a sexual role that requires walking a fine line. If the actress goes overboard, the sex becomes uncomfortable and everything collapses. If she plays it perfectly, which Forestier does, her character's sex life is appealing and never off-putting. Forestier stars as a young woman who is a fervent leftist. She believes that anyone who disagrees with her is a fascist. Her mission is to change conservatives not with arguments, but by having sex with them. Once she gets them in bed, she will use her influence to change their point of view.

Forestier's performance is an energetic tour de force. Director Leclerc, who co-wrote the smart and often very funny screenplay with Baya Kasmi, lets his star run with the part, and run with it Forestier does, taking a quirky character -- one day she forgets to dress and leaves the house nude -- and making her utterly believable. "The Names Of Love" is inspired madness.

"Snakes On A Plane" was a great title, but the movie failed at the box office. Why? Probably because it told its entire story in the title.

The same holds true for "Cowboys & Aliens," a failed exercise in the merging of two genres: Westerns and science fiction.

Director Jon Favreau and five screenwriters, plus a sixth writer who contributed to the story, were boxed in by their title. There was nowhere to go. The film had to be about cowboys and space invaders, and everyone in the audience has already written their own movie. It's an easy thing to do.

It also doesn't help that the film is a compendium of cliches about Westerns and science fiction thrillers. There's the lone gunslinger with a weird past. Is he an alien, or was he once abducted by aliens? There's the wealthy cattle guy who seems to run the town. There's the doctor who also owns the local saloon. There's the bawdy lady who works in the saloon, and works the clientele. And then there's the crusty sheriff.

Creatures from Outer Space land among grizzled characters and do what creatures from Outer Space have always done. They attack.

Daniel Craig as the mysterious, unsmiling stranger isn't half-bad, but Harrison Ford as the cattleman doesn't seem to get the joke. All the Western actors look as if they just arrived from central casting. And the science fiction baddies look like sci-fi baddies from scores of movies.

There are rough spots where things slow down and turn the film into a dreary slog. The unoriginal "Cowboys & Aliens" doesn't explore new avenues for two genres that are mainstays of moviemaking. Imagine what Quentin Tarantino could have done with this idea.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Aug. 2, 2011