El Jefe de Santo, now back from his time spent fighting universal demon wrestling lords and tying up a few loose ends, returns to his film criticism career with a double shot review of not one but TWO films.
Romantic comedies tend to be by the numbers, recycled and more often than not bad. But what about the two films in question: STEEL YOURSELVES, READERS, FOR THE HURRICANRANA OF CRITICISM!
Hollywood is definitely guilty of repurposing content in a new package. Sequels and prequels and remakes and well..it can get stale. One genre, in particular, feels so very stale. Romantic comedies.
There are, however, some that manage to overcome the tropes of the genre by either embracing them wholeheartedly or via smart writing, great performances and, at the very least, decent craftsmanship.
So! First up we have Friends with Benefits starring Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis. Kunis talks fast, can be almost rude at times and is downright gorgeous. There's also a vulnerability just below the surface that is just irresistible. Timberlake is more of the mellow sort with great artistic vision and charming as all get out. She's a New York girl and he's a guy from the City of Angels. How could it work?
Well, it works pretty damn well. This was truly inspired casting. There is a chemisty present between the two that is electric and many of the scenes in which there is back and forth banter (including a love scene that is almost painfully funny) are fantastic.
This is the story of two professionals in this new day and age who substitute sex for emotional support and well you know what probably happens from there. Feelings inevitably get involved and then we have our more typical boy-meets-girl, loses girl then gets girl back sort of tale.
The plot, at times, gets really soft and any credibility flies out the window but each and every time the saving grace can be found in Kunis and Timberlake. They are exactly the reason why these movies continue to be made: chemistry. There is nothing that the American movie-going public loves more than two great looking people falling in love..humorously and also set to a jaunty score. It's pure Hollywood schlock that somehow manages to elevate itself past the sometimes brilliant but mostly pedestrian dialogue full of pop-culture references, horrible Alzheimer's related jokes and hit-or-miss comedy relief bit parts (Woody Harrelson and Patricia Clarkson). The casting alone managed to bring this movie from a reaction of "Eh.. " to "Well damn.. I enjoyed that a lot."
This is definitely an instance of one not being like the other, though the difference between the two films is that one manages to entertain despite the failings of a lazy script and the other is witty, well-acted and just a better movie overall.
I really liked Crazy, Stupid, Love. I had no expectations to really dig it but man was I surprised. You'll noticed immediately that Steve Carrell nails it here. The character of Cal is a devastated divorcee just looking to figure it all out and maybe piece his life back together. Gosling is, well, a jungle predator who goes through them "hos like Drain-O" and decides to impart some knowledge unto the down-and-out Cal. Moore is the wife we, at first come to hate, then understand as the film winds on. Emma Stone is the beautiful girl who just can't seem to get out of the rut she's in with her boring boyfriend and in need of a change.
The dialogue is crisp and delivered well by this cast. This is yet another instance of fantastic casting and it shows because I think if this ensemble had anyone else it might have fallen apart. This, like Friends with Benefits suffers from some lack of authenticity especially near the end but that's not what we're watching romantic comedies for anyway right? Carrell transforms from a guy who sports khakis and sneakers to a well-dressed middle-aged man who comes to realize that, by God, he misses his wife. Jacob (Gosling), formerly introduced by pulsing jungle drums and ridiculous close-up shots somehow meanders from the Playboy of the Millenium to a really great human being. Moore and Stone evolve as well as characters and it was great to see the transformations of each core archetype.
Have we seen it before? Yeah. It was, however, done in ways that made this tired formula somehow feel new. That, alone, makes the movie worth your time. Will there be a happy ending? Undoubtedly so, but that doesn't mean the ride isn't worth taking to it.