Steve Carrell plays Cal, a fortysomething nice-guy with a seemingly perfect life. Cal loves his wife and high school sweetheart Emily (Julianne Moore) but she wants a divorce. Cal and Emily’s 13 year old son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) is in love with his 17 year old babysitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton) who is in turn in love with Cal.
Keeping up? Good. Womaniser Jacob (Ryan Gosling) is in love with well, women, but more accurately he’s in love with sleeping with women, and finally, Hannah (Emma Stone) lives in hope that her boyfriend (Josh Groban) will propose once she becomes a lawyer.
…Steve Carrell shining in a role that lets him show pathos…
Like the title suggests the film plays around with the various aspects of relationships with Steve Carrell shining in a role that lets him show pathos and world weariness, alongside the usual comedic beats we’ve come to expect from him.
The comedy is light and breezy with some nice observations that will have lots of people smiling knowingly at the absurdities of relationships.
With such a high calibre cast, it’s surprising that most of the big laughs come from the minor characters. Hannah’s best friend Liz (Liza Lapira) has some of the best lines, but Marisa Tomei stands out as Kate, Cal’s first post separation fling, her restrained manic performance is genuinely hilarious.
Where this film really comes into its own is in the scenes of pathos, the scene where Emily fakes a boiler breakdown just to phone Cal for his advice is quite touching without being sickly.
Despite the great cast, that includes the always watchable Kevin Bacon in a minor role, the film just doesn’t quite gel and some of the leads seem to lack the chemistry necessary to convince you of their relationships. Add to this a rather mawkish conclusion and the film’s cutting satire feels slightly dented and pointless.