Monday, 24 October 2016

Crazy, Stupid, Love is a bit problematic no?

To prepare myself for LaLa Land, I wanted to understand the Emma Stone/Ryan Gosling chemistry that everyone talks about so I finally watched Crazy, Stupid, Love ... nine years later ! I also finally understand the Ryan Gosling phenomena and I just want to say I am here for this - better late than never.

About 15 solid minutes into the film I concluded, this film could not be made today. And that's definitely a good thing. Cal, played by Steve Carell, has just found out that his wife Emily played by Julianne Moore, wants a divorce after cheating on him. Whilst publicly wallowing in self pity at his local bar he catches the attention of Jacob, a pickup artist who feels sorry for him and decides to teach him his ways. His ways are essentially walking up to women in a bar, asking to buy them a drink and not taking no for an answer until they inevitably all sleep with him. Steve Carell's Cal then becomes a misogynist prick just like Jacob for about half the movie.

Don't get me wrong there are parts of the film that are laugh out loud funny - there's a scene where Cal is trying to surprise his wife and then Jacob and Hannah come in and then they all realise they know each other and then ... just go watch it if you haven't. And of course Steve Carell's comedic timing is as sharp and as witty as ever. There were even moments that were touching; seeing Cal and Emily sort of fall back in love and the Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling chemistry seeps through the screen it was intoxicating to watch.

But the film is unashamedly sexist. About 75% of the movie not only promotes the objectification of women, its male characters constantly harrass women because according to Jacob 'that's what they actually want'. I cannot begin to explain how problematic it is to promote the idea that women do not really know what they want and so men should never take no for an answer. Cal perfectly accepts Jacob's misogynist behaviour and does it himself ... until he realises his daughter is potentially being treated like this. And then it's not cool. But it's cool when it happens to other women. I so wish that film would reach  a place where it acknowledges that all that crude pick up behaviour was wrong but it never does. The film also seems to confuse the fact that pestering women and making them feel uncomfortable is not romantic. At all. Robbie, Cal's son, is actually encouraged by his father to make Jessica feel uncomfortable and shower her with unwanted attention because they're 'soul mates'. Sigh.

Obviously like everyone nine years ago I was enamoured by Ryan Gosling - straight away. But this also reminded me of something Naomi Woolf talks about in The Beauty Myth. She talks about how women have been conditioned over time into having rape fantasies. Now this isn't the same thing. But I feel like me finding Jacob's bad behaviour attractive (initially) is deeply troubling and did give me a lot of food for thought.

For the intended purposes of watching this film, yes I do believe the Gosling/Stone hype. There's this one great scene where they talk and get to know each other and it is magical. Arguably the highlight of the entire movie and I wanted so much more than that mere 10 minutes scene. I'll have to see how Gangster Squad fairs.


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