‘Definitely, Maybe’ keeps audience guessing
It’s been a week of romantic comedies – have you noticed? Oh, of course: Valentine’s Day just occurred. Those marketing geniuses always know when to push a new film. Probably the reason we haven’t seen too many horror flicks out right now.
I wouldn’t call “Definitely, Maybe” quite the romantic comedy, though. Sure, it’ll tug on your heartstrings, but it’s more a movie on what was and what probably could have been.
Bottom line: I really enjoyed this movie, because many of the memories occurred recently that are still fresh in my mind.
Actor Ryan Reynolds (I thought he smoked in Joe Carnahan’s “Smokin’ Aces,” by the way) stars as Will Hayes, a nice, affable father from Manhattan who is in the midst of a complicated divorce. But, like any smart fellow getting his final papers, he shuts out the rest of the world, plugging into his iPod and leaving reality.
What makes things a little more complicated, though, is that he can’t shut out his young daughter, Maya (Abigail Breslin). She wants to know what went wrong and also wants to know more about Dad’s life before he was married. This one’s persistent, though, wanting to know everything about his life and how her parents met and fell in love.
Things are mostly told in flashback mode, beginning with Will leaving the serenity of Wisconsin to the state of confusion that is New York back in 1992. Will was an ambitious, somewhat idealistic young man eager to help out in the Clinton campaign (no, not Hillary, but her husband, Bill). He learns the politics of politics rather quickly and slowly becomes respected in his efforts being a team member.
Of course, he also gets the opportunity to meet three very different women in the big city, having relationships with all of them. Will doesn’t reveal which of the three is Maya’s mother, allowing her to piece the puzzle together and, in the process, realize that being an adult isn’t an easy process, especially when love is thrown into the equation.
I can’t imagine what it must be like for this father – his daughter wants to know how she came to be, but even before the obvious, how he came to meet his future wife who would become the kid’s mother. Maya, though, is way ahead of her peers when it comes to these things, asking pretty direct questions to her dad that had me blushing. This kid pulls no punches, and you laugh when Will tries to fluff up the answers knowing darn well that Maya sees right through him.
I enjoyed the part of the movie where we’re treated to the flashbacks of Will’s life. Since the timeline is fresh from the not-too-distant past, it’s really surreal when comparing them with what is happening in the present in this, a presidential election year.
His story gets increasingly complicated when each new woman is introduced. Each love interest represents a side to Will that can’t quite seem to find the “one” that will satisfy all his needs. There’s the very free-spirited Summer (played by Rachel Weisz) who captured my imagination, although Elizabeth Banks as Emily as the girl from his college days (and that girl-next-door charm) was a keeper. Then there’s the intern, April (played by Isla Fisher), who had a lot going for herself and was a good conversationalist.
Like Maya, the audience, too, is trying to figure out who he eventually married, and there are tidbits tossed in throughout to keep you guessing. After being introduced to his daughter onscreen and then seeing which candidate could be her mother, it’s pretty funny trying to see the not-so-obvious girl and thinking, “Hmmm, maybe she’s the one?”
“Definitely, Maybe” was written and directed by Adam Brooks. While I’m not too familiar with his past cinematic works (although I liked his screenplay for the 1998 movie “Beloved”), he uses his stars wisely here, giving them just enough time as to not be too annoying.
Little Maya, of course, gets the lion’s share of the funniest scenes in the movie. There also were a few surprises in this little gem, the most noteworthy being Kevin Kline. Even when seen briefly, he steals the moment, leaving a lasting impression and has a connection, too, with one of Will’s past relationships.
Comedian/actor Adam Ferrara has a significant role in this movie, playing Gareth Henderson, who is the campaign manager. It’s Ferrara’s character who gives Will a hard time when he first signs on for the job working on the Clinton campaign. “Gareth treats him like a whipping boy until he proves himself,” Ferrara said when I contacted him. He said playing the part was a lot of fun, and “I got a great compliment from Kim Breslin (Abigail Breslin’s mother). She worked on the Carter campaign and told me I really captured the true essence of a campaign manager, which explains why Billy Carter drank.”
– Howie Nave is host/manager of The Improv comedy club inside Harveys and reviews films for seven radio stations throughout Northern California and Nevada. For past reviews, blogs and audio clips, visit http://www.HowieNave.com.
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