Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. USA, 2011. Carousel Productions (II). Screenplay by Dan Fogelman. Cinematography by Andrew Dunn. Produced by Steve Carell, Denise Di Novi. Music by Christophe Beck, Nick Urata. Production Design by William Arnold. Costume Design by Dayna Pink. Film Editing by Lee Haxall. Golden Globe Awards 2011.
A radiant Julianne Moore tells husband Steve Carell that she wants a divorce, having lost the spark in their twenty-five year marriage and begun an affair with co-worker Kevin Bacon. Adorable Emma Stone is approached at a bar by lethal womanizer Ryan Gosling and somehow manages to avoid his snare. Carell takes up residence at the bar Gosling frequents, getting drunk night after night and spinning his tale of woe to anyone who will listen. Gosling, pitying the man who has reached middle age and obviously has so little to show for it, decides to take him under his wing, improving his wardrobe, his appearance and teaching him to become a genuine ladykiller. Meanwhile, Stone graduates law school and expects her boring lawyer boyfriend (Josh Groban) to propose, Moore finds herself unable to continue with her new relationship, and her eldest son is in the throes of adolescent love with the babysitter, who has a thing for Carell. These varied complications are a thrill to watch throughout this sterling romantic comedy as the outstanding performances and rich characterizations guarantee laughs aplenty and more than a few moments of touching poignancy. It’s a warm and witty script that seems determined to reach for more than what a pat-happy Hollywood film usually has to offer: Gosling is at his most radiantly appealing as a man for whom women are nothing more than a sport, but the relish with which he plays his character’s oily manipulation skirts the borders of evil (at least until he takes his shirt off). Smaller characterizations shine bright too, including a hysterical Marisa Tomei as a schoolteacher with the need to let loose when Carell makes her his first successful conquest. As wonderful as the film is for its moments of genuine spontaneity and its terrific self-referencing humour (“What a cliché,” Carell says to himself when rain breaks out at the end of a tragic fight), it seems there is nothing to prevent the script from careening head-first towards one of the worst endings to a satisfying blockbuster in ages. Is it not possible for a good romantic comedy to avoid finishing with a public speech at a prom or graduation? It is possible that screenwriter Dan Fogelman had written himself into a corner, having introduced more characters and situations than he could handle. Still, the combination of Carell’s star quality, Stone’s infectious laugh and Moore’s charm will make it a night at the movies you will not regret.