I think a lot of people missed the boat in their analysis of this movie. Spoilers ahead, in case you care.
It’s a movie about game, the sexual marketplace and self-improvement, so obviously I had to see it. The trailer will tell you everything you need to know about the plot:
From that, you would expect a pretty typical Hollywood happy ending. Steve Carrell and his cheating wife get back together. The incorrigible PUA finds true love and happiness with the ginger girl. The American movie-going public cries out for shmaltz, and they get it good and hard.
Crazy Stupid Love doesn’t actually come with a happy ending, though. It tricks the unthoughtful into thinking the ending is happy, but the reality is (at best) ambiguous.
Of course, the final act features a ballsy Steve Carrell standing up in front of the world to deliver a heartfelt paean to the powers of true love, and his dedication to spending the rest of his life chasing after his soul mate, aka his wife of twenty-five years and three children who had just cheated on and divorced him. Ryan Gosling, of course, realizes that his life of expensive toys and casual sex with model-hot women is really an unhappy sham, and that true bliss can only be found in the heart of the one good woman who hath soothed his tormented heart. Even the 13-year old with a crush on his babysitter leaves off on a hopeful note.
But the movie, to it’s great credit, leaves each of these nascent relationships hanging in midair. Steve Carrell is still a man who can choose between hot young women, and a selfish, petulant, aging ex-wife who cheated on him, filed for divorce and stole his house and livelihood because she wasn’t super-duper happy.
The playboy has spent a few months banging the same girl, and apparently she occasionally spends the night. From this, we are to conclude that he’s turned over a new leaf.
And what’s the message that Steve Carrell imparts on his young son in his final, tear-jerking speech?
“Son, I’ve been a good man my entire life, devoting myself to providing for you, your sisters and your mother. But, mommy got bored of me because I wear New Balance sneakers and off-the-rack suits, so she banged another guy and filed for divorce, condemning me to a life of poverty, and the three of you to growing up without a father. But you know what? That’s OK, because I’m mad at myself for wearing cheap clothes and gaining 10lbs. Your mother had every right to do what she did. But I’m going to make it up to you. I’m going to keep fighting for your mother, because that’s what a MAN does.”
Roll credits. I doubt the actors signed contracts with options for Crazy, Stupid Love 2: Crazier and Stupider. We assume the best for everyone, because that’s what we’re trained us to do. Props to the film’s creators for taking advantage of their audience’s stupidity and biases, and making a movie that appears to have a happy ending, without actually having to lie to us.
Using my keen cynic’s eye, let me pass on a proposed storyboard for the sequel.
Act #1: Steve Carrell realizes that he wants nothing to do with his cheating whore of an ex-wife. He continues living it up to the extent that he can, working out, dressing well, making money, and bringing hot babes back to his studio apartment. He is smart and cynical enough to hire a cut throat lawyer, and wins partial custody of his kids. The ex-wife quickly realizes that she is a 45-year -old with three kids, and no intelligent and self-assured man would risk any sort of commitment to her given her recent history of trustworthiness.
Act #2: Ryan Gosling realizes that while he loved the ginger girl, the road from callous asshole to good husband takes at least a decade, and it’s paved with many broken hearts. The ginger is cruelly fated to be Ryan Gosling’s training dummy, the first of many such. He breaks her heart, thus ending her faith in love, and his bromance with Steve Carrell. Over the next five years, he will have several more mini-relationships, of varying levels of seriousness, each time doing serious damage to whichever girl finds herself next in line. Finally, at the age of 42, he will have several out-of-wedlock children with a hot 27-year-old from either a small town or a foreign country.
Act #3: Steve Carrell’s son looks around in the world, and mentally compares the fortunes of the Steve Carrells and the Ryan Goslings. He opts to live the life of the latter. At the age of 23, he bangs his 27-year old ex-babysitter, and doesn’t call her for 2 months, at which point he sends her a drunken text message. They bang one more time, and never speak again.
Act #4: Steve Carrell’s younger daughter grows up in a world of Ryan Goslings, each dangling the promise of commitment like a carrot in her face, keeping it just out of reach until they begin ignoring her en masse in her mid thirties. She dies childless and alone.
Act #5: Plummeting birth rates, decaying familial bonds, huge numbers of senior citizens (Such as, the ex-wife) whose children have no desire to care for them, skyrocketing crime committed by fatherless men, a generation of lonely, despondent children who will never feel a fraction of the love and intimacy the human mind is capable of experiencing.
At the end of the movie, the audience is left with the vague sense that everything’s going to be OK, even though the movie never specifically says it will be so. One is left with the same sense, reading the mainstream media’s take on the state of families in America today. But the reality is that we’re headed for an interesting couple of decades.