** WARNING: MILD SPOILERS FOR CRAZY, STUPID LOVE CONTAINED IN THIS POST. IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT AND DON’T WANT TO BE SPOILED, STOP READING! **
We went to see Crazy, Stupid Love last night. I’d heard good things and I felt like seeing a movie. I hadn’t seen any previews for it so I didn’t really know much about it other than it was a romantic comedy. It *was* good … sort of. Well, it was funny … mostly.
I’m not stupid. I know going in that a romantic comedy is going to be full of FAIL. You know, sexism FAIL, “battle of the sexes” FAIL, assumptions about “true love” and “soul mate” FAIL and this movie had it all. Most of it didn’t bother me so much I couldn’t enjoy the film. I’m ok with recognizing FAIL but still enjoying the movie or TV show within context. I have to be. If I wasn’t, I’d never be able to watch anything (especially Doctor Who). Besides, fiction is supposed to be entertainment, a fantasy, expecting it to be realistic is … well, it’s setting yourself up for a whole lot of disappointment. I think the important part is recognizing the FAIL and acknowledging it rather than either boycotting everything all the time and never watching anything OR blindly watching things without giving the assumptions underlying the script writing a moment’s thought. So, why did Crazy, Stupid Love bug me enough to inspire me to ramble on about it in a blog post? First, a brief rundown of the story (or at least the bits relevant to this post):
The movie starts out with the main character, Cal, being dumped by his wife, Emily. They’re out to dinner, she tells him she wants a divorce. We learn that they’ve been married for almost 25 years, were high school sweethearts, they have kids, and she’s had a fling with a guy in her office. She says she thinks she might be having a midlife crisis if women can have those (paraphrasing the quote here). Cal basically goes into shock, doesn’t fight and moves out. He ends up in a trendy yuppy bar loudly telling anyone and everyone how his wife dumped him. In steps the (much younger) heartless, womanizing player. He offers to help Cal “regain his manhood” or some such nonsense (cue bits that I try not to think too hard about for the sake of entertainment) and proceeds to give him a make over. Apparently make overs are manly and macho or something now. Anyway, he does this and then teaches Cal how to pick up chicks. Apparently women fall into men’s beds if they spout a few tired lines and insist on buying them a drink.* Cal proceeds to have several random one night stands.**
Meanwhile, Emily is trying to brush off the guy in her office with whom she had the once-off fling, generally acting like the wronged wife and moping around. She does not, you will note, continue dating the guy from the office (aside from a really awkward date that she agreed to after being badgered by him) or sleep around or even just date anyone else. AND THAT IS THE PROBLEM! I can only guess that this is because women don’t really like sex and they are never interested in sleeping with more than one or two guys (yes, both she and Cal had only ever slept with each other prior to her fling & their break up) and men always have more sex than women. You know, the standard bullshit narrative about the battle of the sexes or … whatever. AND IT IS BULLSHIT!
Emily had said she thought she was having a midlife crisis. She appeared to be acting out of boredom with her marriage which had gone stale. So, why, when she frees herself from the marriage which she feels is the problem, doesn’t she go taste life a bit? Why does she become the pure “angel” while her ex husband goes on the prowl to “regain his manhood?” Granted, the subtext in the script is that the players aren’t really happy when they’re playing, that they need their One True Love to be happy, etc. This is problematic for several reasons but at least it doesn’t necessarily paint the objectifying behaviour in a particularly good light. Still, though, Emily’s behaviour (or lack there of) really bothers me.
I’d have been able to get past the sexism, the really awful stereotypical characterizations, etc if only this one thing had been different. It ruined my ability to really enjoy the last half of the movie. Maybe it’s the fact that I literally just finished reading Sex At Dawn or maybe it’s just that after 32 years hearing the same bullshit about how men can sleep around but if women do it they’re vile sluts. Maybe it was just because it was utter bullshit and my bullshit-o-meter was on high alert last night. Either way, it pissed me off and ruined what could have been an otherwise good, fluffy, somewhat problematic romantic comedy. I guess, at least, it was actually a new movie and not just a remake. That’s rare in Hollywood these days. And it *did* have it’s moments. It wasn’t the worst movie I have ever seen by far.***
* Jacob’s character is your typical retelling of the Casanova story. Complete with him falling in love with the one woman who rejects his advances. The only differences being that Casanova supposedly had better lines (at least in the versions of the story that I’ve seen) … in that women wanted to sleep with him because he made love to their minds first. He wasn’t just confident, he was charming, caring (at least for that one encounter), etc. Anyway, Jacob was just a boring, douchebag with some standard lines and a gorgeous body.
** Including one who’s characterization is … well, let’s just say there’s an entire blog post in what’s wrong with that particular “comic” device.
*** That title might just have to go to Moulin Rouge.