REVIEW: Definitely, Maybe [2008]

“I make a living”

Maybe I was just in the mood for a romantic comedy with some intelligence, but as far as wondering if I liked this week’s Valentine’s release, I say … definitely. Wow, I just did that. Despite the horrible wordplay, I really found myself fall into this story of one man’s three loves told to his daughter in order to show the complexities of that, humanity’s greatest passion. Definitely, Maybe is very much your run-of-the-mill rom-com, yet something about it just resonated with me. It might be the three beautiful and talented actresses involved, the always fantastic Ryan Reynolds, the precociousness of Abigail Breslin (who goes a tad Dakota Fanning here, but great anyways), or the tale that, although somewhat obvious and clichéd, seemed true to the heart. Every performance added in the realism of this fact and the stages of our lead’s life and the highs and lows of love just made sense. Paint-by-numbers? Possibly. Evenso, the colors used could not have been chosen more perfectly.

I generally hold Love Actually on the loftiest position of great “chick flicks” and its perch is not to be questioned here. To me there are many kinds of romantic fluff out there, some that bridge genres and some that stick to the formula, with a few surpassing it. A film like Beautiful Girls is a favorite of mine, but the fact that it is about guys and their friendships shining light on the relationships they have, I can’t put it in the same category as this film. Definitely, Maybe holds nothing back and never attempts to hide what it is. The equation has been written down and a story has been formed, filling in all the blanks. Boy meets girl, boy and girl separate, boy meets other girl, boy realizes true feelings for the lost love—stir and repeat, (in this case a few times). I guess one could say the gimmick of telling his travels to his young daughter so that she can guess which is her mother adds enough originality to keep it fresh for me. I’ll admit that although I would have pegged the correct woman from the start, there were many times that I almost had to change my mind. Some credit for that goes to the writing, but again, as I said earlier, the film is filled to the brim with coincidence, dumb luck, and big clichés. As a result, I must give the bulk of the kudos to the stellar acting on hand.

Ryan Reynolds carries the movie throughout, never letting go to show us that this was a paycheck film. Thinking back to work like Waiting … makes me remember the smug comic look that he uses so often, the one that screams acting and performance, throwing any semblance of realism out the window. Could it be the fact that he plays opposite a young girl, two great actresses, and a third finally showing some skills beyond her pretty face? I’d agree with that. Let’s not shortchange the guy, however, because his comedic timing is impeccable. Whether the quick-witted funny lines were scripted or ad-libbed in the moment, it doesn’t matter. The fact that I couldn’t tell shows me how lost I was in the proceedings that I didn’t try to notice which was in fact the truth. Perfect casting and for being onscreen pretty much the entire duration, I must applaud his work.

As for the women, each brings exactly what is needed to their stereotypical roles. Rachel Weisz is used to playing the gorgeous, successful woman with a brain and the ability to use that mind with her looks to get whatever she wants. Here is no different. Elizabeth Banks is great, albeit in a smaller role than the others. Not quite on caliber with her performance in the wonderful Heights, but enough so to warrant her getting more quality roles (Kevin Smith picked a good one for his upcoming film). As for Isla Fisher, this may be the first time I can say that she was truly great. Yeah, she was a blast in Wedding Crashers, but her poor showing in The Lookout made me worry that there just wasn’t anything there. With her role as April, though, she shows what she is made of. From the early scenes, smoking on her birthday, to the ones where emotions run very high, Fisher doesn’t miss a single step. If the writing can be credited for anything concerning these three girls and their bond to Reynolds, it is the fact that writer/director Adam Brooks shows how strong it is, despite their transgressions. Each relationship begins and ends with only the coupling and passion lost, their love for each other never diminished. This is how I see life, maybe it’s naïve of me to think so, but a connection that strong cannot be severed just because you are no longer together. That kind of love is too strong and thank you to Brooks for not being afraid to put that in the story, rather than go the easy route and have him hate the two losers showing us all who the mother is tactlessly.

Yes, the journey is one that I had immense pleasure taking. We are shown a fully fleshed out Reynolds as he grows from the big dreaming college graduate to the weathered by life man he knew he would become. Or as the best character of the film might say, “from boy-man to real man.” Kevin Kline is absolutely brilliant, stealing each and every scene he is in—even when just a photo. Derek Luke and Kevin Corrigan also deserve mention for small parts that still deliver important story necessities (Luke) and good comedy (Corrigan). All in all a very solid rom-com that I would say to all my male friends in a relationship—take her to see it. You may surprise her by the choice, but know you may actually like it as well, despite its genre’s shortcomings.

Definitely, Maybe 8/10 | ★ ★ ★

photography:
[1] Ryan Reynolds and Abigail Breslin in Universal Pictures’ Definitely, Maybe (2008) Copyright © Universal Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
[2] Ryan Reynolds and Isla Fisher in Universal Pictures’ Definitely, Maybe (2008) Copyright © Universal Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

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One Response to “REVIEW: Definitely, Maybe [2008]”
  1. Andrea says:

    I think that the acting in this movie was fantastic. I will agree with your comment about changing your mind about who was the girl’s mother. I did not figure that out until it was seen in the movie, but I do think that each female actress was unique and added to the plot. I think that the relationship between the father and daughter was nicely portrayed. It is very rare to see a father talk about previous relationships with his young daughter. I think it shows us how the world is changing and things that were not acceptable when we were growing up are now acceptable.

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