Crazy, Stupid, Love is one of this decade’s most underappreciated romantic comedies. The movie, directed by Glenn Ficarra John Requa, stars Steve Carrel as Cal Weaver, a recently divorced man who tries to recapture his idea of masculinity with the help of pick-up artist Jacob Palmer, played by Ryan Gosling. What doesn’t help is that his ex-wife’s new boyfriend is played by Kevin Bacon. Crazy, Stupid, Love conforms to the idea of love being more fulfilling than lust, particularly in Jacob’s growing relationship with Emma Stone’s Hannah. In the spirit of this, let’s countdown ten movies like Crazy, Stupid, Love.
To start us off we have Definitely, Maybe, a movie like Crazy, Stupid Love, but also what a 100-minute feature film version of How I Met Your Mother would look like. Ryan Reynolds lends his effortless charisma to the role of Will Hayes, a recently divorced father whose daughter, played by Little Miss Sunshine’s Abigail Breslin, asks him about his romantic past before Will met his ex-wife. The movie tells the story of Will’s relationships with three women oven the years with his daughter trying to guess which woman would eventually become her mother. Isla Fisher, Rachel Weisz, and Elizabeth Banks make up the rest of the cast as Will’s romantic partners. What’s good about Definitely, Maybe is that the romcom ending has happened before the present-day story that Will is telling his daughter. This means there is less time for clichés and more time seeing these relationships unfold naturally.
No Strings Attached/ Friends with Benefits
I know, these movies are not exactly the same, but they are similar enough that the choice of which one you want to watch is entirely up to you. If you hate Natalie Portman or Ashton Kutcher (he will have more haters than her, no doubt) then stay away from No Strings Attached. Honestly, friends with Benefits is a much better movie. Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake have better chemistry, the script is sharper, and the director, Will Gluck, made the excellent comedy, Easy A before this. No offence to No Strings Attached, but there is a flatness to the performances and humor that drags the whole thing down. So, if you’re still on the fence about which movie you should watch it will interest you to know that the late-great Roger Ebert preferred Friends with Benefits.
La La Land
Crazy Stupid Love gets a lot of things right, but it’s biggest achievement is the romantic pairing of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Both actors bounce off of each other like the modern version of His Girl Friday’s Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell (if they ever dare to remake Howard Hawkes’ masterpiece, both Stone and Gosling would be perfect). This dynamic would prove a fruitful one as the pair appeared together in two subsequent films, including La La Land. For which Emma Stone won her first Oscar. If you haven’t seen La La Land yet here is the basic premise. Gosling and Stone become romantically involved to a number of excellent songs with simple choreography. The problem is that both of them have ambitions to make it in their respective creative fields, which begins to put pressure on their relationship. It’s a bittersweet film, but one that is worth revisiting.
The Nice Guys
A change of pace, and genre here with the inclusion of this underrated action thriller. The inclusion of The Nice Guys in the category of movies like Crazy Stupid Love is exclusively because of Ryan Gosling and his amazing comic timing. Critics who quickly grew tired of Gosling’s reserved performances in Drive, Only God Forgives, and most recently, Blade Runner 2049, raved about his comic chops in this brilliantly subversive crime caper. Gosling stars alongside a gruff Russell Crowe (also his best performance in years) as a pair of PI’s on the hunt for a missing girl that could have incriminating evidence that would affect the government of Los Angeles. Honestly, the plot is secondary to the multiple scenes of comic violence (which has more consequences than normal cinematic violence), the brilliant central duo, and director Shane Black’s obvious glee to make the craziest film that he could.
Going the Distance
Before Drew Barrymore started eating flesh on Netflix’s Santa Claria Diet, she was still a big name in the genre of romantic comedy. Her last big hit was 2010s Going the Distance, with Justin Long starring alongside her. Barrymore and Long play Erin and Garret, two people that quickly fall in love at the worst time, since Erin has to move away the next day. What follows is the typical pitfalls of a long-distance relationship, and while Going the Distance doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it has a cast engaging enough to get through the movie’s rougher patches. As good as Drew Barrymore and Justin Long are, it’s Christina Applegate as Erin’s uptight sister that steals the whole movie out from under the central couple. Another highlight of the movie is the inclusion of The Boxer Rebellion, whose music not only creates a sense of romantic atmosphere, it will also remind you that the last time you listened to them was 2010. Do you feel old? I certainly do.
500 Days of Summer
500 Days of Summer is often misunderstood in its place within the romantic comedy genre. The main reason for this, and similar movies, like Crazy Stupid Love, is that 500 Days of Summer deconstructs the tools and conventions that are second nature to both filmmakers and their audience. That isn’t to say that the movie is unromantic, far from it, but the smart choice to humanize Summer (Zooey Deschanel), though a lot of people still think she sucks, by showing that it was Tom (Joseph Gordon Levitt) was projecting his ideal woman on to her. Crazy Stupid Love does the same thing with Steve Carrel’s character: as his newfound skill at picking up women can’t fill the hole that his wife left, despite the fun he has doing it. The best modern romantic comedies are genre-savvy enough to challenge the genre’s rules. Which is exactly what 500 Days of Summer achieved.
Based on David Nichols hugely popular novel, One Day is a romantic comedy starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess as two college friends, Emma Morely and Dexter Mayhew, whose relationship grows in fits and spurts over the years. Like the novel, the movie is broken up into sections: one day of every year, as they become closer. While One Day doesn’t completely recreate the charm of the novel, its structure is interesting enough, along with the performances, though Hathaway’s English accent is dreadful to the point that fans of the book would have been happy to have Heather be American. One Day’s episodic nature is the most engaging thing about the movie, as with each subsequent get-together challenging the viewer to try and fill in the gaps before the movie does: like why are they cold towards each other when the last scene ended on a positive note?
Silver Linings Playbook
Despite winning Academy awards for Best Actress as well as another seven nominations, including Best Picture, Silver Linings Playbook is far from your average romantic comedy. Bradley Cooper stars, in what is a career-best performance, as Pat Solitano, a former teacher who was hospitalized with a diagnosis of bipolar after he attacked the man his wife was sleeping with. Having to move back home, Pat tries to get his life back together, which is complicated by his burgeoning relationship with Tiffany Maxwell played by the sole Oscar winner, Jennifer Lawrence. Silver Linings Playbook has a lot to recommend, especially how it de-mystifies mental health problems, as much as a Hollywood romantic comedy can. The movie also contains the legendary Robert De Niro’s best performance in years as Pat’s father. It’s the most emotionally venerable that De Niro’s been in decades.
Bear with me here as Obvious Child isn’t your average romantic comedy. Written and directed by Gillian Robespierre (who expanded her short film of the same name), Obvious Child is jokingly referred to as an abortion comedy. Jenny Slate stars as Donna Stern: a comedian who gets pregnant after a drunken night with Jake Lacy’s Max. The special thing about Obvious Child is that it bypasses the direction that similar movies go in. Instead, and this is brilliant, it takes the type of left turn that when you get there seems like the obvious choice. Jenny Slate is brilliant in a performance that should have made her a superstar. If she keeps working with Gillian Robespierre, then she will have no trouble. Obvious Child balances the opposing tones of drama and comedy expertly, leaving viewers satisfied but hungry for more. If you like Obvious Child check out the director and actresses next collaboration, Landline.
The 40-Year-Old Virgin
You know what this list has been missing? That’s right: Steve Carrel. The 40-Year-old Virgin was the first mega hit for Judd Apatow and his stable of actors. For many this was their first taste of the comedic chops of Steve Carrel, Paul Rudd, and Seth Rogen. It feels a little reductive to explain the plot, partly because it’s in the title, and the fact that the scene in which Carrel’s character is found to be a virgin has been parodied by the likes of American Dad among many others, but also because The 40-Year-Old Virgin has entered the pantheon of great American comedy, right next to most of Mel Brook’s filmography. This movie was the Genesis of Apatow’s comedic style that would dominate the next decade, for good and ill. Without 40-Year-Old Virgin we would have no Knocked Up, Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I Love You Man, and Trainwreck.