Another slice of life from Carrell

(L-r) STEVE CARELL as Cal and JULIANNE MOORE as Emily in Warner Bros. Pictures' comedy 'CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE.' a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
(L-r) STEVE CARELL as Cal and JULIANNE MOORE as Emily in Warner Bros. Pictures' comedy 'CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE.' a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

ASKING for a ticket to see Crazy Stupid Love is impossible to say without scowling. I’ve tried, and the acid reflux it caused was frankly painful.

For future reference I would rather report on the heartless murder of kittens than have my gag reflex tested in such a manner ever again.

Title rage aside, this film is actually very good: tying together various threads of romance in the manner of Love Actually minus the vomit-producing levels of schmaltz.

In the lead role of Cal Weaver is Steve Carrell, channelling the downtrodden middle-aged routine he’s perfected from roles like The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

Poor Cal has been unceremoniously dumped by his wife of 25 years, Emily (Julianne Moore), for no greater crime than getting a bit old and boring.

Drowning his sorrows in vodka-cranberries, he takes up residence on a bar stool to the annoyance of serial womaniser Jacob (Ryan Gosling), who gets so bored of Cal’s pity-party that he decides to take him under his bicep-bulging wing.

There’s the obligatory transformation montage where buying new clothes and getting a hair cut will fix Cal’s woes, because, obviously, this will carry just as much favour with the ladies as Gosling’s outrageously chiselled abs.

But the reason Carrell works the character so well is because he get the sympathy vote: he’s like a puppy who has been repeatedly kicked in the face but resolutely carries on, not wanting to bother anyone.

“Sweet” doesn’t even begin to cover his hopeless attempts to get over his wife, though “hilarious” gets a look-in when he finally beds a mentally unstable, ex-alcoholic teacher (Marisa Tomei).

Elsewhere, Emma Stone plays the lovely but pithy lawyer, Hannah, who chops Jacob’s seduction tactics down to size, proving that even for self-confessed studs there’s hope for love.

The film does fall into a world of sentimentality towards the end, and there is a mildly inappropriate moment with a naked photo and a prepubescent boy, but it dodges the rom-com bullet of death with witty screenplay penned by Dan Fogelman.

A first class cast throwing themselves whole-heartedly into a believable and bittersweet world is just the icing on the cake.