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Definitely, Maybe (A Movie Review)

Updated: Oct 21, 2022

Definitely, Maybe

Definitely, Maybe


Starring Ryan Reynolds, Isla Fisher, Derek Luke, Abigail Breslin, Elizabeth Banks, Rachel Weisz, Kevin Kline, Adam Ferrara, Lianne Balaban, Annie Parisse, Nestor Serrano and Robert Klein.

Screenplay by Adam Brooks.

Directed by Adam Brooks.

Distributed by Universal Pictures.  112 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

A man who is just about to get a divorce has to have a very intimate discussion with his little daughter.

She wants to know how he met and fell in love with her mother.  Not the standard boilerplate story, either, but the real, detailed story.  And, by extension – how did the love die and end in divorce?  Also, she wants to know if he loved other women before he got married.  What happened with them?  How did he know that the mother was the right choice?

Therefore, he decides to tell her the whole story – but he tries to blunt the story by making a game of it.  He will tell about his ex-wife and the two other important women in his life, but he will not use their real names.  The daughter will have to figure out which story is her mother.

It’s a sweet, charming conceit, even though if you think about it at all, you know it makes no sense.  A ten year old girl who lives with her mother five days a week is going to have at least a basic idea of her mother’s life history.  She will know where her mother was from, what she does for work, what her passions and interests are.  It wouldn’t take a whole movie for her to figure out which woman was her mother, even if her father promised to change the names and some details.  She should know within the first few minutes.  Why make it a game anyway?  Also, a lot of the things that dad tells about seem a little inappropriate to tell a little girl – particularly when those things are about the girl’s parents.

However, sometimes you have to take a leap of faith for the premise of a movie, and Definitely, Maybe is worth the jump.

Now, I have a confession to make.  In real life, I am one of the most cynical people in the world when it comes to love.  That said – I’m a total sucker for a romantic comedy – but only if it is done well and intelligently.  There is nothing I hate more than a bad, stupid, clichéd rom-com, but if the characters are interesting and there is a true sense of romance, I will buy into most anything they say.

Definitely, Maybe had me from hello.

This somewhat surprised me, because the film is a starring project for Ryan Reynolds – an actor that I have never, ever gotten.  Just read this long list of lame projects – Waiting, Van Wilder, The Amityville Horror, Smokin’ Aces, Just Friends, The In-Laws (the 2003 remake) and Two Guys, A Girl & A Pizza Place.  In fact, due to this weak history, I’ve sort of avoided films with his name.  But – credit where it’s due – Reynolds makes a very likable main character here.

He surveys almost two decades in the life of a character named Will Hayes (though it mostly hones in on the years from 1992 to 1997 or 1998) – who over the years goes from a bright-eyed, idealistic campaign worker for Bill Clinton’s first Presidential run to a somewhat jaded advertising exec.  But, as his daughter says at one point when he is talking about his career, that’s fine, but what about the women?

There are three women in Will’s life over these years.  The first is Emily, his beautiful blonde college sweetheart (Elizabeth Banks of Invincible and The 40-Year-Old Virgin).  She wants him to come back to Wisconsin; he wants her to move to New York.

Then there is April, the quirky-but-hot redhead (Isla Fisher of Wedding Crashers) who also works for the campaign – but unlike most, she is there for the paycheck, not for the cause.  The two become close friends, but there is a tantalizing sexual tension between them.  Unfortunately, it seems that every time one is single, the other is not.

The last was a sultry brunette (yes, Will, hits all the natural hair shades except gray here) named Summer, played by Rachel Weisz of The Constant Gardener.  She is an old college friend of Emily’s who has become a reporter.  She had been dating a jaded older Professor (Kevin Kline) when they meet, who also becomes a kind of de facto mentor for Will as well.

Each of the women slip in and out and back in and back out of Will’s life over the years.  Each of the actresses are spot on, charming, sweet and sexy.  You can see why Will would fall for all three.

Even Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine herself, is terrific as the daughter.  She is occasionally given precocious things to say or do, but Breslin rarely feels fake.  Again, the father-daughter relationship sometimes seems a little Hollywood – but as long as you buy into the story of Definitely, Maybe, you overlook the fact that she is wiser than her years and just go for it.

Much like the whole film.

Is it a perfect movie?  No.  Of course not.  Did I pretty much love it, anyway?  Yes, definitely.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2008  All rights reserved.  Posted: March 22, 2008.

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