Logline: A newly divorced middle-aged man seeks to get his wife back and retain order in his life and family as he rediscovers himself.
Act I: Page one starts with TRACY WEAVER expressing her desire to divorce her husband, CAL WEAVER. We meet ROBBIE, 13, and MOLLY, 9, their children as well as JESSICA, 17, their babysitter. Jessica has a secret crush on Cal. We inexplicably meet a woman named HANNAH, 24, whose role in this story doesn’t come until much too late. We also meet a suave, deviant womanizer named JACOB PALMER. Cal mentions a person named NANNA, who we assume is his mother. Tracy cheated on Cal due to a sinking feeling of a failing marriage. She needed life and now needs a divorce. Cal subsequently moves into a bachelor pad. This is followed by extensive trips to a bar where Cal becomes a regular. Another regular is Jacob Palmer.
Jacob is Cal’s catalyst character. Jacob proposes to change Cal from a broken, battered soul into a proud and confident man’s man; much like Jacob himself. Cal pathetically accepts.
Fogelman does an excellent job setting up dynamics between this family instantly. He is able to communicate very complicated characters and textures very clearly. Although some may criticize him for his abundant use of dialogue, its subtle realism justifies its existence. Fogelman is great at using the idiosyncrasies that glue us together as a way to reveal character. The amount of dialogue does make the page count rack up but it’s fast paced, hilarious, and superbly human.
Act II: The first half of the second act is a build up of change. The characters all have their desires. Jacob—a man needing relevance—seeks to reinvent Cal. Cal seeks to reinvent himself, hoping to prove to Tracy he’s worthy. Through his incredibly introspective son Robbie, Cal learns to never stop fighting for your soul mate, no matter what. Robbie fights, rather hilariously and embarrassingly, for Jessica. Jessica does the same for Cal. We learn that the mysterious Hannah is about to start studying for the bar and is very disappointed with her very serious boyfriend.
Tracy, on the other hand, seems stagnant, trying to balance regret for cheating on Cal and a desire to be able to live without Cal—something she hasn’t been able to do since they married right out of high school. This leads to a Parent-Teacher conference with one of Cal’s new “conquests”—a bad habit he picked up from Jacob—who turns out to be Robbie’s English teacher, KATE. All Hell breaks loose and everything Cal has worked for falls apart. Tracy hates Cal, Cal hates Jacob, Hannah passes the bar and leaves her boyfriend.
But, It turns out Hannah is perfect for Jacob. Jacob has actually fallen in love. The two form a romance as Cal backlashes against Jacob’s lifestyle, refusing to be friends. Cal partners up with Robbie and Molly to create the ultimate rehashing of a lost romance. Robbie steps up his game to woo Jessica and Jessica the same to seduce Cal. Once again, Nanna is mentioned in passing.
The second act is where the film starts to journey into an ensemble piece. Although still indelibly Cal’s story, Fogelman hops back and forth between all the characters. It can be confusing and tough to follow but it's also something very important: Not boring. We are so endeared with these characters—including the mysterious Hannah—that we care enough to sit and follow the montages and quick scenes. If anything, this shows Fogelman’s storytelling ability—he is able to clearly communicate the complex changes and emotions of the characters in very short scenes; a hard feat, indeed.
Act III: As far as climaxes are concerned, Fogelman’s is brilliant. We are lead to believe that as Cal, Robbie, and Molly attempt to create the perfect romantic experience in their backyard that we’ll get a nice, easy going, denouement. But, this is torn to bits when Jessica’s father, BERNIE (one of Cal’s old friends) discovers the promiscuous photographs Jessica was saving for Cal. On top of this, it turns out Hannah is actually the Nanna we’ve been assuming is Cal’s mother. Hannah is the reason why Cal and Tracy got married so early—she is their “senior year hiccup”. Nanna is a term of endearment for Hannah. Hannah and Cal’s relationship should have been cleared up much earlier. It could have been more dramatic if we, the audience, knew of their relationship while Jacob did not causing an overbearing tension through the story. All of the characters show up in the back yard and duke it out. Bernie against Cal, Cal against Jacob, Robbie against Cal. Even David Jacobwitz shows up—the man Tracy cheated on Cal with. It ends with Cal back to square one: alone and depressed in a bar.
Jacob shows up, once again, to rearrange Cal’s life, guilt tripping Cal into going to Robbie’s eighth grade graduation. While at the ceremony Cal realizes through Robbie’s salutatorian speech what’s been wrong: A lack of priority. When life breaks you down one day at a time, forcing your dreams and desires to shrink, it’s hard to keep our eye on what’s important. Robbie’s incredibly eloquent, funny, and introspective speech brings Cal to this epiphany where he stops Robbie and makes a speech of his own. It’s embarrassing and touching: motifs that have been expertly used throughout the film.
Overall, Crazy, Stupid Love is an excellent portrayal of how to get by in a world with no guide book, with no directions that to Google. Dan Fogelman is able to weave a story that is embarrassing, vulnerable, real, touching, and hilarious. Although his style may be egotistical as he overuses editorials and camera angles, almost constantly asserting his presence in the story, it’s easy to overlook as the story is so damn good.