Ryan Gosling is probably the hottest star in Hollywood right now. At the Toronto Film Festival his face seemed to adorn every bus shelter in town.
We already knew that he was one of the very finest actors of his generation. You might remember his Oscar-nominated performance in Half Nelson.
Over the course of this year he has also emerged as an A-list leading man and a bona fide heart-throb.
The plush romantic ensemble Crazy, Stupid, Love finds him cast as a handsome ladykiller who acts like a modern-day Alfie.
His cheesy chat-up lines, swaggering walk and amazingly defined body are all catnip to the girls and doesn’t he just know it.
He becomes a Henry Higgins-style mentor to frumpy, middle-aged Cal (Steve Carell) who finds himself suddenly single after a shock request for a divorce from his wife Emily (Julianne Moore).
At the end of an unremarkable dinner he struggles to choose a dessert while she is struggling to tell him the marriage is over.
The couple had been childhood sweethearts and spent 25 years on the road to for ever so Cal is understandably all at sea.
The odd couple premise of middle-aged melancholy and bachelor-boy bravado is good enough for an amusing if misogynistic romantic comedy, especially as Gosling’s Jacob Parker proves to be a dab hand in the Gok Wan stakes.
He changes Cal’s hairstyle, updates his wardrobe and fills him with confidence. At least Cal doesn’t have to strut the catwalk or pose naked to prove his newfound self?esteem. Gosling is naked often enough for the two of them.
What gives Crazy, Stupid, Love a little more substance is the way that it spreads its net wider than just the problems faced by Cal.
It becomes an examination of love and longing across the generations, tip-toeing through the dilemmas of Cal’s 13-year-old son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) who has a powerful crush on 17-year-old babysitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton), who finds herself attracted to Cal.
Emily at 44 is left to wonder if she has made the right move in an affair with a colleague (Kevin Bacon).
Then everything is turned upside down when Jacob meets lawyer Hannah (Emma Stone).
He is a master at the art of seduction but an amateur in the game of love.
Cal might suddenly be able to offer him some pointers.
Crazy, Stupid, Love is a refreshing change from all the toxic and tasteless efforts at romantic comedy that have emerged from Hollywood in recent months.
It has a genuine sense of affection for the characters with all their flaws, failings, mistakes and regrets.
It also manages to create a genuine ensemble piece in which half a dozen characters are drawn with some substance.
It is a little too long, it does drift a little aimlessly and seriously undervalues some of the female characters.However it does have a surprise or two up its sleeve and not everything is relentlessly focused on securing a belly laugh.Carell may be renowned for his comic skills but he always seems much more appealing when he is not trying to be funny.
His wistful and unassuming Cal is a charming character who emerges wiser and warmer after all that befalls him.He also creates a fond double act with Ryan Gosling.And right now Gosling is the man with the golden touch.