Cal (Steve Carell) and Emily Weaver’s (Julianne Moore) American Dream comes firmly crashing down on them when Emily reveals she’s had an affair and is leaving the broken marriage. What’s a guy to do? Their 20+ year union has left Cal stunted in the same place he was when they first got together. It’s a new dating world out there and his wife seems to have moved on. So how can he do the same? Enter Jacob Palmer(Ryan Gosling).
The smooth talking, bar hopping lady’s man who has no problem getting more than a phone number at the end of the night. These two guys form a buddy cop style relationship as Jacob gives Cal the biggest glow up. Cal even gets to meet the kooky Kate (Marisa Tomei). There’s still a whole lot of life to sort out for the newly separated father though. When Jacob finally meets his match with Hannah (Emma Stone), will he be able to give up the game of love for good?
What do you do when your wife of over 20 years, mother to your son and the only woman you’ve ever been with walks out on you for a new lover? You jump out of a moving car of course! Our protagonist Cal Weaver’s reaction to his beautiful wife Emily’s revelation of an affair with coworker David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon) seems logical, given the situation. She’s not too happy with the man he’s become and she lets him know this.
He moves out and drags himself to a bar to sulk. And boy does he sulk, loudly. The poor sap draws the attention of the resident womanizer, Jacob Palmer, who takes the pitiful Cal under his wing. Though Cal eventually gets the girls, his heart still aches for his true love, Emily. There’s a lot of grounded realism in this film, which is rare for a romantic comedy. People don’t just walk away from 20 years of love and get swept up in whirlwind romances. It’s appreciated. On the other hand, Emily struggles with starting a relationship with David, who wants to get serious. Just like Cal, her heart lingers over the past 25 years.
Another angle the movie explores is young love in the form of Robbie (Jonah Bobo), Cal’s son and his babysitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton). Robbie’s pretty emotionally mature for his age. Which might explain why he has googly eyes for his 17-year-old babysitter. In classic rom-com fashion, he gives his Dad good advice while trying to pursue his own heart’s desire. But Jessica’s got some googly eyes of her own, and she’s going after that too. The film’s realistic ending gives us a chance to ponder what love really is and what we are willing to do to pursue and preserve it. As Cal tells his wife, “I should have fought for you”. That’s what it’s all about, after all.
Dan Fogelman is no stranger to writing love stories with a quirky twist. He’s the name behind films such as Tangled and the heart string pulling, emotionally complex television series, This Is Us. So it’s not a shock that this film took the same direction. He also does a good job of adding humor to the mix which brilliantly portrayed by comedic greats such as Steve Carell. But the occasional humor does not pull away from the story which stays grounded in reality.
Characters & actors
What can be said about Steve Carell’s acting range that hasn’t already been? He’s a jack of all trades and master of many more. Carell channels his previously brilliant performances from 40-Year-old Virgin coupled with the dry humor of Michael Scott from The Office and welds them into one timid, love shy man child. Julliane Moore, who plays Emily, is effervescent in every way. She pulls all of the emotions one might have while going through an affair and separation. She’s known as a drama actress but her delivery on jokes was spot on.
Then there’s Ryan Gosling. He’s Hollywood’s golden boy and he plays the suave Jacob well in this flick, but it’s his ability to switch from a womanizing player to a man capable of bearing his soul that’s impressive. It even got him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy. Then there’s Emma Stone’s portrayal of the game changing girl who’s not falling for any of Jacob’s tricks, Hannah. She has an infectious laugh and brings her down to earth persona straight into the film.
Music & cinematography
This being a film in the romantic comedy genre, not a lot is expected in terms of breathtaking shots and deeply profound soundtracks. But the film does keep the tone of the story alive with its cinematic choices, sets and music.
Co- directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa really paid attention to the emotional tone that each scene sets. The soundtrack was coordinated by music supervisor George Drakoulias. He brought on emotionally dense songs by Nina Simone mixed with sexy anthems such as Goldfrapp’s Ooh La La to speak to the varying light hearted and deeper tones the film carries.
If you’re in the mood for some satirical style comedy coupled with a strong redemption arc and a few coming of age narratives, then this is the film for you. It’s a perfect blend of love, charm, laughs and laid-back viewing. Definitely worth a watch.