Spending almost two hours in the dark with Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling, and Emma Stone, enjoying their trials and travails, their growth and their romance, is really so much fun that you're to be forgiven if you don't realize, by the time you walk out, that you've just seen a very important film.
I wouldn't think of spoiling the big reveals of the movie for you. But let me let you in on the worst-kept secret of Hollywood Romance Movies: they all follow a formula. It's such a common formula that most of us can recite it by heart without even knowing it. We are like Ralph Macchio in Karate Kid. We've seen it so many times that we know it by rote without necessarily knowing that we know it.
This movie is so gentle, the acting so spot-on, and the directing so sensitive and textured, that you might miss the fact that in several distinct ways, it offers a fresh, new model for romantic comedies. The writer, directors, and actors have managed to sign on to a concept, and deliver a product, that feels so comfortable and enjoyable that we don't even notice that we've been given something truly new for a major studio tentpole romantic comedy:
We've been given something to think about.
We've been given an opportunity to think about our dreams, and how our romance connects to that. About the motivational and personal power that comes from our passions and desires, even if unrequited. We've been given an opportunity to wonder about the role love can play in our future and not just our present. We've been given the chance to muse about how our own movie should end, even as we accept and enjoy the mysterious and strangely mature delight of how this one did.
And along the way we see some of the most memorable scenes we've ever seen from actors of the caliber of Carell, Gosling, Stone (oh, wow), and even Marisa Tomei, under the amazingly deft direction of the best pair of directors in town -- Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. Dan Fogelman, the writer, has written a beautiful script but he must be in love with his directors. And when you see it, I think you will be, too.
I actually don't think I want to say any more about the film. I just hope you'll see it, and enjoy it as a present to be unwrapped on Christmas morning. And don't just stop after removing the wrapping and say oh, what a pleasant box. This is a movie that suggests it's time we open the box, too.