All the commas in their right place.
So here's the problem with Crazy, Stupid, Love. It's another film that uses the ensemble structure for the pathos and credibility that it brings, yet only has one maximum two stories to tell here, which is Steve Carell's and sort of Ryan Gosling's. For the most part it seemed like a collection of scenes that didn't really lead anywhere or do anything, and characters that were too thin to justify their screen-time. Having said that the film does feel sincere, and that makes even a ham-fisted message more tolerable, if you get the sense that the writer's heart is in it. And there is a sweetness and earnestness to the film, it's just drowned in what one might call the unspectacular. There's no voice here, no insight. Just the same old platitudes re-framed in a more appealing way. And that's fine, to a point.
If there's something that works here it's the scenes between Gosling and Carell in the first half of the movie, where Gosling who is basically playing a less goofy, self-serious take on Barney from How I Met Your Mother here, teaches Carell his almanac of rules and strategies to picking up women in bars. (Always the same bar, by the way) Gosling proves himself to be a very adept comic actor, perhaps because he's simply a good actor, and has an endlessly confident, deadpan vibe to his delivery, which in a way draws something more interesting out of Carell as opposed to just leaning on his usual schtick. Carell in these sort of comedy movies tends to be more enjoyable than Carell in straight out comedies, perhaps because it brings him out of default mode. But there's always been something innately sad about Carell as a comedian, which is way his best work is in the likes of Little Miss Sunshine et al, and he is very good here.
But the movie has such an expansive, over-qualified cast that roles that were probably meant to be throwaway have the spotlight drawn on them, and if you're going to have Kevin Bacon you might as well have him do more than mope around in the background for two scenes, and if you're going to have three-time Oscar nominee Marisa Tomei, you might as well give her role that would be embarrassing on a middling to lesser sitcom. But the worst thing is that Julianne Moore, 50% of the love story we are supposed to care about, is given absolutely nothing to play and fucntions simply as 'Wife', a goal Carell has to reattain. Even Emma Stone, who thought she was going to get her own story there for a while, just gets funneled into Gosling's. And the less said about the teenage son the better.
As an ensemble movie it's sort of terrible, too many undeveloped characters with trite one-note functions, and would certainly have been stronger say if it had narrowed the focus to Carell and Gosling's dynamic, because I enjoyed both of those performances quite a bit. Gosling in particular, in what feels like a necessary move to give him some more mainstream exposure and credibility, comes of well. But movies about middle-aged troubled marriages are vast in number, and you can't be as unremarkable as this movie is and still expect to make a dent. Some scenes are fun, and there are laughs scattered about but fuck is this generic.