If Steve Carell is having second thoughts about leaving “The Office,” you wouldn’t know it from talking to him about “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” the first offering from his new Carousel Productions company, out Friday.
That’s not to suggest that Carell, 48, is celebrating his liberation from the popular sitcom that made him a household name and an endearingly buffoonish presence in the lives of work-weary fans through seven seasons.
But, as Carell explains it, now is the time for him to take the wheel and dictate his future.
That’s what led him to play Cal Weaver, a good-natured but hopelessly complacent schlub whose marriage is falling apart simply because he forgot to remind his wife (Julianne Moore) that he cares.
Thrust back into the singles scene, woefully unschooled in the ways of modern dating and lacking even a hint of fashion sense, Cal is bound to remind some of Andy Stitzer, the clueless nerd he played in Judd Apatow’s 2005 hit “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.” Yet Carell sees a difference.
“Andy is someone who hasn’t lived life, who has closed himself off to experiences that failed him early on,” says Carell. “He has a lot of emotional blocks. Cal just sort of exists. He’s not hiding from anything, but he takes what he has for granted.”
In “Love,” which finds Cal reluctantly learning the art of seduction from a lothario pal (Ryan Gosling), there is a bittersweet domestic drama lurking just below the surface of an inspired farce.
With an extreme makeover in looks and attitude, Cal has little trouble luring ladies into his love nest. But the father of three who married his high school sweetheart isn’t looking to make up for lost time. He wants his wife back.
That was key to Carell’s appreciation of the character. He saw the comic potential in Cal’s misguided dip into the dating pool, but wanted him to be less a cartoonish rube than Andy or Michael Scott, Carell’s bumbling desk jockey from “The Office.”
“The movie isn’t cynical,” says Carell, a goofy romantic who once dressed up in a bunny costume and hopped around his girlfriend’s front lawn for laughs. (She later married him.) “It’s not unkind, yet it’s funny. I don’t think something needs to be mean to represent edgy. Edgy can mean a lot of different things.
“It’s a tricky story. Julianne’s character could easily have been construed as a villain, but she’s just experiencing a traumatic time in her life. In relationships, there’s fault on both sides. It’s not just one person making mistakes. There are gray areas. That’s the human condition.”
IF YOU GO
Crazy, Stupid, Love
Starring Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone
Written by Dan Fogelman
Directed by Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Running time 1 hour 58 minutes