Perhaps one of the most difficult things to describe is the tone of any work of art. Merriam-Webster defines “tone” as the “style or manner of expression in writing or speaking,” which does little to clarify what this element truly is. But one thing is for sure – when the tone of a novel or film is wrong, it’s immediately apparent. That’s the immediate impression viewers get in the first act of Crazy, Stupid, Love, as we witness the demise of the 22-year marriage of Jacob and Emily (Steve Carell and Julianne Moore), done in a lightly comic mode while suffused with a lighthearted soundtrack.
Glenn Ficarra and John Requa’s examination of love and the emotional knots it ties us in vacillates wildly from melancholy to hope as they tackle Dan Fogelman’s ambitious script, which looks at three different relationships in flux. In addition to Jacob and Emily’s marriage falling apart, we witness their son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) declare his love for his four-years-older babysitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton) who happens to harbor a crush on his dad. Meanwhile, Jacob is taken under the wing of Jacob (Ryan Gosling), a lady’s man whose bed-hopping ways come to a halt when he falls for the emotionally fragile Hannah (Emma Stone).
As all involved try to navigate their respective emotional dilemmas, the film abruptly switches gears as it veers from pathos to comedy. Each of these characters are prone to committing at least one major gaffe when addled by cupid’s bow, only to find themselves remorseful or crestfallen for having been love’s victim. While the tone of the film may seem erratic it becomes evident that Ficarra and Requa are reflecting the ups and downs relationships are fraught with. This approach is initially off-putting but it pays in the end. It leaves us on our heels and open to the surprises in the film’s genuinely startling and satisfying third act, one that will leave those who’ve ever suffered from a broken heart nodding with understanding.
Contact Chuck Koplinski at firstname.lastname@example.org.