Every fan of the romantic comedy has the same likes and dislikes about the genre. The thing is, the likes are the dislikes. The plot structure is about as predictable and formulaic as you can get in film, and in the end, the boy always gets the girl. This film takes a slightly different tack, and the result: an original romantic comedy. And they said it couldn’t be done.
Cal (Steve Carell) and Emily (Julianne Moore) are divorcing after 25 years of marriage—not Cal’s decision. In his post-nuptial funk, Cal gets drunk in bars and pours his heart out to anyone who will listen. For reasons unknown, Cal catches the eye of Jacob (Ryan Gosling). To describe Jacob as a sophisticated ladies’ man is like describing George Clooney as kind of attractive. So Cal lets Jacob mentor him in the ways of wooing women. Meanwhile, Jacob has his eye on Hannah (Emma Stone), a young attorney who shuns his advances. After that, it gets complicated.
That’s the gist of it, but the film is also peppered with crushes and one-night stands and unrequited love: Cal’s son is in love with the babysitter. The babysitter is in love with Cal. Emily’s coworker is in love with Emily. It’s exhausting.
I have to say this is one of the most surprisingly refreshing ‘rom-coms’ I’ve ever seen. Carell is absolutely perfect in this role, as he slips between B-list nerd and suave lothario with effortless ease. Gosling is so divine in this (and every) role. He is sexy and arrogant, only sometimes successfully masking his pain and vulnerability. Emma Stone is his perfect foil, and Julianne Moore is, as always, lovely. It’s 15 minutes too long, but I really enjoyed it.
It's an 8.