Cal (Steve Carell) is a 40-something man who has been comfortably married for 25 years. Then his wife Emily (Julianne Moore) tells him that she wants a divorce and that she has slept with David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon).
Cal, devastated, gets into a bad habit of going to a bar every night, getting drunk and telling everyone in the bar that his wife has slept with David Lindhagen. Eventually Jacob (Ryan Gosling) a cool, confident pickup artist, takes pity on Cal and makes it a personal project to teach him how not to be such a loser.
Jacob is the funniest character in the movie–quite a feat in a movie that included Steve Carell, Julianne Moore and Marisa Tomei. He’s smug, shallow and materialistic, but there seems to be a fundamental core of decency underneath. He starts a program to make-over Cal, starting with his wardrobe.
Are you Steve Jobs? Are you the billionaire genius who started Apple Computer? Because if you are not Steve Jobs, you have no right to be wearing New Balance sneakers!
OK, I have to admit, that stings a bit.
Of course a romantic comedy would be nothing without a romantic polygon or two. David Lindhagen is pursuing Emily. Cal’s 14-year-old son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) is clumsily pursuing the 17-year-old babysitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton), much to her mortification. Jessica is clumsily pursing Cal, who would be mortified if he had any idea what she was trying to say. Then things start to get really complicated.
I’ve heard complaints that this movie is not at all realistic, but that could legitimately be said about any romantic comedy. So yes, these people are funnier, better looking and more successful than their real-life counterparts would ever be. Real life generally doesn’t have as many weird coincidences leading to bizarre slapstick confrontations.
Also in real life everyone isn’t fundamentally good. Some of these characters do some regrettable things, but they are basically decent people underneath, and they all seem to get a more or less happy ending.
Still, as light entertainment this delivers the goods.