Starring: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore
Directed by: Glenn Ficarra (“I Love You Phillip Morris”) and John Requa (“I Love You Phillip Morris”)
Written by: Dan Fogelman (“Tangled”)
Forget marriage counseling. If you really want to know the status of your relationship, pay attention to what’s happening under the dinner table during a romantic evening out. Playing footsies means there’s still some spark. Flatfooted and aloof? You might as well start drawing up those divorce papers.
At least that’s where loving husband and father Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) finds himself during the opening scenes of the surprisingly pleasant albeit conventional and ineffectively titled romantic comedy “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” There’s no footwork here. In fact, his wife and high school sweetheart Emily (Julianne Moore) fesses up to an affair and pulls the plug on 25 years of marriage. Screenwriter Dan Fogelman (“Tangled”) doesn’t give much explanation as to how their marital problems have reached criticality, but you know things are extremely broken.
Drowning his sorrows at a posh local bar,Calbecomes the pet project of smooth-talking ladies man Jacob (Ryan Gosling), who takes pity on him and his middle-aged lameness. Their goal (besides referencing “The Karate Kid” and inventing the verb “Miyagied”): to rediscover Cal’s manhood and – most importantly – get him laid.
Fogelman doesn’t end his matchmaking venture with Cal. As in 2003’s British rom-com “Love Actually,” the narrative in “CSL” is layered with smitten characters and sometimes-underwritten secondary storylines. Here, Cal’s 13-year-old son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) is infatuated with his babysitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton) who actually has a crush on Cal; aspiring lawyer Hannah (Emma Stone) hopes her nerdy boyfriend (Josh Groban) will pop the big question before she falls prey to Jacob’s charm.
While clichés are no stranger to “CSL,” the all-star cast is able to class up the situations to make them feel as funny and original as possible. Most of the film’s emotion hinges on Carell’s dramatic turn now that he’s proven he can be both hilarious and poignant in dramedies like “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Dan in Real Life.” In CSL, Carell trades barbs with Gosling and tears withMoore, but through subtle dialogue and gesture.
Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (the team behind the gay jailhouse romantic comedy “I Love You Phillip Morris”), “CSL” doesn’t offer anything on the marital front we wouldn’t have learned from watching a rerun of “Everybody Loves Raymond.” But like Cal, there’s something genuinely refreshing about its soft heart, honesty, and squareness, even while our hero mismatches tennis shoes and khakis with a straight face.
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson
Directed by: Atom Egoyan (“Adoration”)
Written by: Anne Fontaine (“Coco Before Chanel”)
It’s evident from the start how much director Atom Egoyan (“The Sweet Hereafter,” “Exotica”) wants to keep the title character in “Chloe” as enigmatic as possible. It’s surprising, however, when he doesn’t pull back the curtain in the slightest to give us a glimpse of a real character. By the end, Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) – no matter how intriguing she is at first – never develops into more than a mere set piece in a cumbersome story.
Lacking drama, passion, and genuine seductive moments, “Chole” feels like a bargain basement romance novel with little spirit and intention. The story follows New York gynecologist Catherine Stewart (Julianne Moore) who suspects her college-professor husband David (Liam Neeson) is cheating on her with one of his students.
While there is some evidence of his infidelity, Catherine wants to be certain. She decides to do what any other woman would (yeah right) and hires Chloe (Seyfried), a high-class prostitute, to assist her with a social experiment on her husband. Catherine asks Chloe to present herself to David like any two strangers would meet on any given day, flirt a bit, and see if he takes the bait. As these rendezvous become more consistent, Catherine wants detailed reports of their meetings. Chloe obliges and reveals every steamy scenario that plays out between her and David.
But as the bizarre love triangle continues, director Egoyan wrestles with the exact tone he wants for the second half of the film. When Chloe begins to show interest in Catherine and then in Catherine and David’s disrespectful teenage son Michael (Max Thieriot), the air of sexual tension is slowly let out of the narrative as Chloe extends her screen time by adding needless mischief to the already far-fetched premise. Once “Chloe” hits the “Fatal Attraction” plateau it’s a lost cause.
“Chloe” would have worked much better as an intelligent character study, but instead Egoyan shifts back and forth from tasteful to tawdry without much explanation. While Moore, Seyfried, and Neeson do as much as they can with their characters, the script expands in too many directions for Egoyan to make sense of anything with a deeper meaning than just the sex itself.
Starring: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Matthew Goode
Directed by: Tom Ford (debut)
Written by: Tom Ford (debut)
While “A Single Man” is the most self-involved film in recent memory, debut filmmaker and fashion designer Tom Ford has created a work of art that is both flawless and haunting. Not only is it admirable for its pristine production value and attention to detail, actor Colin Firth gives the most gripping performance of his career. I would have loved this movie more if it could have stopped loving itself.
Starring: Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Alice Braga
Directed by: Fernando Meirelles (“City of God”)
Written by: Don McKellar (“The Red Violin”)
With 2004’s “City of God,” Brazilian filmmaker Fernando Meirelles quickly became one of the most talked-about directors of the new century. That’s why you hope projects like “Blindness” are mere flukes in a career that started off so impressive.
Adapted from the novel by Jose Saramago, “Blindness” tells the story of a group of people who are quarantined when an epidemic causes them to lose their sight. The plague starts when a man goes to an unnamed ophthalmologist (Mark Ruffalo) when he suddenly loses his sight while sitting in traffic. The following morning, the good doctor has lost his vision as well.
Soon, a handful of people are infected with the “white blindness,” an idea that somehow gives Meirelles reason to whitewash most of the film with extra lightning and overexposing some scenes. The visually aggravating cinematography, however, is the least of the film’s problems. Although it’s an interesting idea, McKellar’s narrative is ineffective.
As more people become sick, they are sent off into hospital wards where an aggressive pecking order amongst the blind community slowly begins to take shape. Julianne Moore (“The Hours”) plays the eye doctor’s wife, who goes to the ward with her husband despite being the only person who can see. It’s never explained why Moore’s character doesn’t lose her vision, which isn’t that big of a deal. “Children of Men” never tells us why Kee (the pregnant girl) is the only one in the world who can bear a child. The difference, however, is that Kee in “Children of Men” was a symbol of faith. In “Blindness,” Moore’s character is so frail, there’s really no reason to develop her into anything more than collateral for the heathens that live among her.
There is so much Meirelles wants to say about the blind leading the blind, his metaphors come off heavy-handed and wasted. “Blindness” may be reaching for some deep-seated ideas about the brutality of society, but there’s no way to describe exactly what he wants us to know when he’s delivering it in incoherent, sometimes laughable, pieces.