'Crazy, Stupid, Love' brings smiles to date night (39535)

There may be better date night movies this summer, but I can’t think of one. “Crazy, Stupid, Love” is an interesting and unexpectedly good film about the travails of modern love. It’s strange, funny and far from by the numbers.

We meet average guy Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) on the worst night of his life. He’s out to dinner with his wife, his high school sweetheart Emily (Julianne Moore), when she announces out of the blue that, instead of dessert, she wants a divorce. The man who has the house in the ‘burbs, the car, the sensible slacks and three kids is thrown for a loop. All of a sudden, he has to make his way in the world without the only person he loves (and has ever slept with).

So he hits up the local singles bar to drown his sorrows in overpriced, watered-down drinks, telling anyone who will listen (and everyone who doesn’t care) that his wife is leaving him. One of those who don’t care but can’t stand his sadness is Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling), who is young, handsome, rich and has a way with the ladies. In a moment of weakness he offers to take Cal under his wing and teach him the ways of the seducer, starting with a wardrobe upgrade.

The next 30 minutes is a slightly predictable segment of Cal’s missteps in bachelorhood as he tries (and fails) to learn from the master. Eventually Cal gets the hang of it and actually becomes something of a ladies’ man himself.

But as we learn from a surprisingly nuanced and sensitive performance from Carell, Cal still pines for his one true love. Sure, he’s mad as hell at her, but he wants her back and he starts to do what he can to win her over. Cal being who he is, this goes awry as well.

Meanwhile, our friend Jacob manages to fall in love with a girl he tried (and failed) to hit on a few months ago. Hannah (Emma Stone) is a soon-to-be lawyer stuck in a dull relationship. She manages to avoid Jacob’s advances but after a tough day she goes back to the bar to get her man. What ensues surprises both of them and ends up surprising a lot more people in a twist I never saw coming.

At its heart this is a movie about the ability of love to overcome. It doesn’t have a Hollywood ending, but we’re left with enough hope that we think things might just work out for us too.