Divorce, and all the emotional turmoil that accompanies it, isn't usually the basis for Hollywood comedies. But then, Steve Carell’s latest movie "Crazy, Stupid, Love" isn’t your typical Hollywood comedy. In the film, which opened in theatres nationwide Friday, Carell plays Cal, a lovably schlubby fortysomething man with two kids whose long-time wife Emily (Julianne Moore) informs him that she has cheated on him and wants a divorce. Putting up a fight isn’t Cal’s forte: no sooner has she told him she wants out than he’s rolling down their driveway—his driveway—in a U-Haul moving truck, head in hands, on his way to his depressing post-divorce bachelor pad. The marital ups and downs that play out over the course of the next two hours challenge the traditional romantic comedy script in ways we never thought possible (plus there are some decidedly excellent shots of Ryan Gosling's abs--he stars as Jacob, Cal's post-divorce dating and romance guru). Carell recently shared his thoughts about the central role divorce plays in the film with Huffington Post:
When Cal’s co-workers learn he’s getting a divorce, they’re incredibly relieved it’s not something serious--like cancer. That was hilarious. What do you think it says about the way we view divorce nowadays?
I think that’s a very astute scene. Divorce is fairly common these days, and I think many times people disregard the emotional impact that divorce has on a couple and a family, because it happens so frequently. What’s clear in the movie is how powerful and emotionally draining [divorce is]. It’s a huge loss and I think people tend to, I don’t know if trivialize is the right word, but I think they under-appreciate the enormity of the effect a divorce can have on people.
Huffington Post: There are so many elements of the film that HuffPost Divorce readers will be familiar with—things like Cal’s sad post-divorce bachelor pad and his friends having to choose sides after his split. Were you familiar with any of that in your own life?
Steve Carell: Some of my friends have gone through divorce after many, many years of marriage, so several elements of the movie ring true to me. Certainly, getting back into the dating game is a very frightening and daunting element [of the film] that is rooted in reality. I had a friend who, after 25 years of marriage, found himself trying to date again, and it was completely different. Everything had changed, and he had to reacquaint himself. It was funny even talking to him about it. For someone who has been out of the loop, it’s a different world.
HP: Had you ever been through a breakup of that enormity?
SC: Fortunately, no.
HP: There’s a line where Cal’s son says something about your character’s ex-wife, his mom, to the effect of, “She’s your soul mate, don’t give up on her.” Do you believe in soul mates?
SC: I do. I’ve been married 16 years and I believe that I found mine, so I certainly have that to base it on. I think I got lucky and ended up marrying the right person.
HP: Did that inform the way you played Cal?
SC: I think so. I think it also informed why I was attracted to the script. I do believe that you fight for who you believe are the right people in your life and people. Relationships shouldn’t be disposable. If there’s something worth saving—not always the case, some relationships are irreconcilable—but if there is something that you determine is worth saving, then try to do that.
HP: We hear a lot about marriages ending so quickly. From the moment your character’s ex-wife says, “I want a divorce,” there’s an incredibly quick transition to you moving out. Was that on purpose? As a viewer you kind of think, “Wait! Why did that happen so quickly”?
SC: That speaks to my character. It speaks to this guy who so easily walks away from [his marriage]. He’s someone who hasn’t seen any of the warning signs and [doesn’t react] even when faced with this huge piece of information. And you have to ask, is his wife just begging him to respond in some way? And when he doesn’t, that’s his default setting. Even faced with this pending divorce, he doesn’t respond—he won’t engage. And I think that’s really his problem: he isn’t engaged with her, and he needs to be. And once he allows himself to get mad, to become a part of the equation, then things can potentially change—either to move on or to figure out how to make it work.
HP: It’s interesting that in this movie, the wife has the affair, not the husband, which is the opposite of what we usually see
SC: Yeah that’s one of the things that was very important to me. But I didn’t want her character to be a villain in any way—she’s just a human being. Everyone is flawed and everyone makes mistakes and is culpable. There’s fault on both sides in almost every relationship, so it was important to me that there was responsibility on Cal’s side as well to help make the relationship better. It wasn’t all in her court to figure it out.
That’s also a huge departure from what we usually see in most affair narratives, whether in the media or in the movies. There’s usually a clear villain and a victim, and there wasn’t in this film.
That was a very specific note that I had—that there needs to be movement on both sides. That’s just the reality of it. You can’t speak for every relationship, but more often than not there is responsibility on both sides.
HP: A comedy about divorce: not exactly clear comedy fodder.
SC: Yeah! It’s a tough topic and a challenging sell because here’s a movie about divorce, relationships, and love and it’s also funny. But I think so much humor comes out of pain and growth and forgiveness.