Directors: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Cast: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Marisa Tomei, Kevin Bacon, Analeigh Tipton, Jonah Bobo, Liza Lapira
Synopsis: Cal Weaver (Carell) has his life turned upside down when his wife and the mother of his children, Emily (Moore), asks him for a divorce, also informing her of an affair with a work colleague (Bacon). Depressed, he starts hanging out in a bar, where a suave pick-up artist Jacob (Gosling) takes pity on him and updates his image, helping him to take a number of women home himself.
This is a film that I find hard to give an accurate genre classification. Most commonly I have seen it referred to as a romantic comedy, yet personally I feel this simple classification does this film a disservice, as it creates an expectation of something this film is not. Perhaps a more accurate description is to call it a romantic dramedy, a name encompassing three genres successfully intertwined in this one film. That in itself is an impressive feat.
The comedy in this film is not always front and centre. There is a gentle laugh rate that on a few occasions leads to some absolutely hilarious moments. Often these moments are not obviously sign-posted too far in advance, and yet the build-up to these gags is actually the result of an intricately building plot. Yet the humour is balanced with some really quite sad moments, as well as some genuinely sweet exchanges between characters.
Bringing all these elements together are a group of actors at the absolute top of their form. Carell has made a career of the middle-aged sad-sack that you can’t help but like. This character is little different from this background, yet at no stage does it feel repetitive in this film. His familiarity with this type of role, and audience familiarity with him in it, perhaps makes the audience feel they know him better than a simple two-hour running time will permit. Gosling as always impresses, with a suave, cool role that once again shows what a brilliant performer he is, especially if you contrast this role with his performances in The Notebook and Lars and the Real Girl. Julianne Moore, though the one to initiate the on-screen problems, at no stage is really painted as a villain, but simply as really confused, a realistic characterisation that elevates this film above others of the same ilk. Emma Stone, as Hannah, the focus of Jacob’s attentions, also puts in another great performance, playing the nice girl who has some spice that only she seems to play so perfectly.
The supporting cast however is also worthy of mention. Lapira as Hannah’s best friend is delightful in a small role that facilitates some of Hannah’s decisions is both amusing and likeable. Bobo as Cal’s son has that interesting role of the kid that can see more than the adults can in the show, yet still manages to be delightfully awkward yet upfront with the object of his desires, his older babysitter Jessica (former America’s Next Top Model contestant Tipton). Tipton in turn has a crush on Cal, with hilarious results. Tipton as well was the real find of this film. I was unfamiliar with her background prior to watching this film, and found her performance to be a real highlight of the film, even if her story was more of a sideline rather than a central feature. According to Wikipedia, she was nominated as a face to watch in the New York Times, and I whole-heartedly agree.
Some reviewers have cited the final act as the only flaw in the film, though I think that perception of this ending will vary between viewers own personal viewpoint on romance. For me, this was a refreshing film that subverts what a lot of on-screen romances tell society today, and in some ways this can be seen as a true victory.
4 stars out of 5.