Why The Twist In 'Crazy, Stupid, Love' Makes It The Best Romantic Comedy Of The 2000s

When I first saw the premise for Crazy, Stupid, Love, I was buying my ticket — I didn’t care what the story was about, but Ryan Gosling, Steve Carrell, Emma Stone, Julianne Moore, and that girl from America’s Next Top Model were in it, so how bad could it be? Well, now it’s one of my favorite romantic comedies, but the part that really makes it special is its twist ending. The surprise at the end of Crazy, Stupid, Love , was, well, quite a surprise to moviegoers, including myself.

The gist is this — Cal’s (Steve Carrell) wife, Emily (Julianne Moore), has decided that she wants a divorce. She cheated on him, and she doesn’t want to be in the relationship anymore. Cal is distraught, and he meets Jacob (Ryan Gosling), a player who teaches Cal how to, well, be a player. And Cal gets good at meeting and seducing women, including (woops) his son’s teacher. As Jacob is teaching Cal how to mistreat (basically) women, he meets Hannah, who quickly whisks him off his feet. Both stories don’t seem like they’re related, but at the end, we learn that they are actually, literally related — Hannah is Cal and Emily’s daughter! She is so much older than their other children (who are in middle and elementary school) because she was born when Cal and Emily were 17. Cal doesn’t want a guy like Jacob with his daughter, Jacob vows that he really does love Hannah, and hilarity ensues. Well, sort of — Cal forbids Hannah from seeing Jacob, but since she’s an adult, he can’t really do much to stop her.

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I saw Crazy, Stupid, Love in theaters, and most people who were there at my showing had a physical reaction to the reveal that Hannah was actually Cal and Emily’s daughter. Oh, Ryan Gosling, you are in for a world of trouble now! In the end, everyone makes up and Cal and Emily get back together and Jacob wins Cal’s trust to be with Hannah, and they all live presumably happy ever after.

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So why does it work? I mean, it’s a romantic comedy — we all know that romantic films are not going to end with everyone crying (unless it’s one of those cancer grief porn movies like The Fault In Our Stars), so it was obvious from the start that Crazy, Stupid, Love was going to work out. What Crazy, Stupid, Love did was just for a second make you think that maybe everything wouldn’t be tied up in a little bow at the end of the movie — what happens if Hannah dumped Jacob because her family didn’t like him? Or it drove a wedge further between Cal and Emily?

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Crazy, Stupid, Love takes the interconnectivity of movies like Valentine’s Day and Love Actually and narrows it down to a digestible level. Honestly, He’s Just Not That Into You and its ilk have way too many characters to care genuinely about. Though Crazy, Stupid, Love isn’t seen as one of those Garry Marshall “you can’t fight star power” movies, it perfected the genre. It made it manageable, which means that you actually care about Cal and Emily and Jacob and Hannah. Do you really give a hoot if Ashton Kutcher gets together with Jennifer Garner at the end of Valentine’s Day? Yeah, me either. Crazy, Stupid, Love is the best of the new wave romantic comedies because it kept audiences on their toes — a true feat for a genre that’s seen as stale and tired.

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