Middle aged Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) is stuck in a marriage that is doing ok but has little gas left in the tank to overcome the next hill.
When at dinner, Cal asks what his wife Emily (Julianne Moore) would really like, she asks for a divorce, just as he plumps for the safe choice, Creme Brulee.
The film pulls no punches when it comes to the break up and Carrell proves again he can act and conveys real pain in the enforced silence and awkward moments after the initial bombshell. Top tip, always lock the car doors when relaying bad news.
Hanging out at a pick up bar, he comes to the attention of Uber smooth guy in the form of Jacob (Ryan Gosling), the sort of guy who could pick up chicks even without his designer shades, clothes and moves. Taking pity on the newcomer, after hearing once too often about Emily’s new lover, he decides to provide him with a makeover.
We have the usual movie montage of designer shopping, Jacob advises “be better than Gap” whilst imparting tips and tricks to enable Cal to score, and once he gets going, he certainly puts some runs on the board. Kate (Marisa Tomei) opening the flood gates and Cal gets swept along on a wave of opportunity. This sounds rather tacky and tasteless but it is done with such charm and intelligence, that all can be forgiven. Gosling surprises with a light comedy touch and Carrel’s funny bone credentials are already proven, here toning it down to ordinary man level and is all the more effective for it.
Kevin Bacon plays the office person of interest for Emily and perhaps gets the best line in the film. Emma Stone continues to add to her growing resume, rebounding off her onscreen wet rag of a boyfriend by bewitching ladies man Jacob, after a charming drunken date, which then leads the screenplay into unexpected directions.
All the cast do good work even down to the love struck thirteen year old son (Jacob Bobo), complete with odd haircut and a hopeless unrequited crush on his babysitter (Analeigh Tipton). At times resembling a french farce, this is spirited, amusing self aware cinema with a great script. But also has time for poignant quiet scenes, notably the remote relighting of the boiler, which mark the as film as well above average.
Nobody is really bad. Selfish and self absorbed they maybe but the ensemble have reasons to act in the way they do and in a welcome change, unnecessarily hurting people is not on the agenda. You care about the characters and they get a chance to breathe, grow and change, so not your usual teenage sex comedy at all.
A great comedy, full of charm, intelligence, humour and unexpected twists and turns.
Highly recommended and yes, a romantic comedy that even boys can enjoy.