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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Definitely Maybe

Definitely, Maybe is definitely something you’ll want to see. At least you will if you enjoy adult romantic comedies that don’t rely entirely on innuendo and boob jokes, but do focus on real relationships that make sense between real adults. I put that out from the get-go because the day after I saw Definitely, Maybe with my perfect husband I ran into Dale Chapman, the manager at the Essex Cinemas, and he said a group of women came out of the movie after only a short while clucking that they weren’t staying because the movie was “all about sex, sex, sex!” Honest to God, I don’t know what version they were watching, but I daresay a glimpse at an actual porn movie might cause them to explode like a pot roast with a stick of dynamite buried inside

Definitely, Maybe is about as graphically “dirty” as March of the Penguins, but, hey! There were even folks who walked out of that one because it was ‘offensive’ and rife with bird fornication. Ironically, in that case, I saw the March of the Penguins twice before I even grasped the one scene in the film that hinted at fowl sex. In Definitely, Maybe it is a bit more obvious (there is exactly one scene featuring two people waking up in bed together, fully covered), but I’d hardly call this a smut festival.

What I would call
Definitely, Maybe is a great deal of fun, featuring a gorgeous cast, at their prime. Ryan Reynolds (Chaos Theory), who is in a league with Matthew McConaughey when it comes to being grade A prime beefcake should have been showing skin but doesn’t (damn it!), stars as Will Hayes, a single father, in the midst of a divorce, who currently is caring for his ten year old daughter Maya (the ubiquitous Abigail Breslin; No Reservations). Much to Will’s surprise, Maya has just learned the ins and outs of sex in a kiddie biology class at her school, and now she has questions about her own conception, or, more basically about how her Mom and Dad met and about whether there were other women in her father’s life besides her Mom.

Oy! What questions from a sweet-faced Schiksa! I figured my own children would learn about sex on their wedding night just like their father did. When my son asked “Where did I come from?” I told him Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles and left it at that. When he asked what pregnant was, I told him a long pause. Was I lying? I think not. But in Will’s case, he decides to go overboard, forgoing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and turns his last fifteen years into a bedtime story, changing the names of the three women who have crisscrossed throughout his life as if weaving his character into the man he is today with their combined influences on him. Maya’s challenge is to guess which of the women her mother is.

So as Maya snuggles into her bed, Will begins back in 1992 and his first job out of college, as a
naïve and idealistic staffer on the Bill Clinton campaign for President. His decision to take the summer job in New York meant leaving his college sweetheart, blonde and innocent Emily (Elizabeth Banks; Fred Claus) back in Madison, Wisconsin, where they grew up.

As long-distance relationships often do, Emily and Will meet a major bump in the road (trust me, it’s MAJOR), and they break-up, but not before she propels him into the arms of her free-spirited summer camp best friend aptly named Summer (Rachel Weisz; also of Fred Claus). Of course, raven-tressed Summer is already the girlfriend of a much older booze-hound professor and author Hampton Roth (Kevin Kline; A Prairie Home Companion), so their passion is strictly illicit (and virtually off-screen in spite of those earlier nay-sayers’ worries).

Through it all, there’s also April (Isla Fisher; Hot Rod), the sweet red head who has been Will’s best friend since his first day on the Clinton job. April collects copies of “Jane Eyre” in the hope of someday finding the one her father gave her as a girl, which he lovingly inscribed, only days before he died unexpectedly. That copy disappeared when her family moved shortly thereafter and she has searched for it ever since. It’s that sort of touching characteristic that makes you root for April. She seems the type to always give of herself even when it hurts. It’s obvious to us, the audience, that April is in love with Will years (story-wise) before he gets the picture. It’s also obvious that she is his perfect complement.

Don’t count out the college girl though. Emily shows up in New York too, a lot more sophisticated and savvy, and Summer manages to become available as well, ever ready to make Will a major part of her life, so even though Will is not looking to “hook up” in a sexual sense, he has three very capable, successful, and different types of women in his life. The question is, who did he end up falling in love with, marrying, and is now divorcing, and how in the world is a story about a couple divorcing going to have a happy ending?

All I will tell you is that it does not end in the way you most likely are guessing. The obvious answer is reconciliation between Will and the soon-to-be-ex after all this beautiful recollection with Maya, but that is not in the cards. But there is the kind of resolution that rings much truer and makes this whole story all the more believable and satisfying than opting for the fairy tale ending.

Finally Ryan Reynolds has moved past the Van Wilder persona that has followed him for years and through several films. He has made some pretty poor choices in terms of quality (Waiting; Just Friends) of late, so it is nice to see him step into a successful leading man role that is not over-the-top or downright stupid. I’ve always believed he had more potential than he had been given an opportunity to show in the films he was offered, and this may be the one to give him a break and get producers to start looking at him more like Brad Pitt and less like Dane Cook.

As for the ladies, each one gives a spot-on performance in their roles, even when the roles themselves sometimes are less than sympathetic. Best of the lot, though, is the smallest of them all, as Abigail Breslin continues to turn in a bravado performance as the curious, stubborn, and finally brightest member of the ensemble. I truly imagine her as this generation’s Jodie Foster, that rare child actor who will avoid the pitfalls of show biz and grow-up in this industry to eventually be a powerhouse producer and director as well as adult performer if she so wishes.

I Definitely Absolutely enjoyed
Definitely, Maybe and think anybody looking for a contemporary romantic comedy without explosions, car chases, and the usual crap that litters movies these days will find it a refreshing change of pace. This is the kind of film we wish Hollywood would make regularly, but never seems to. Enjoy it now because this has to be a quirk in the movie making machine. Somehow quality got in by mistake, and you know how Hollywood hates that.

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