Review By: Staff
The romantic comedy, more so than any other genre, lives or dies in the hands of chemistry. Love stories can survive sub par plot if the bond between characters is strong. Passion can out weigh action if a movie's heart is in the right place. Definitely, Maybe succeeds because the match ups on screen are deliciously calculated. Individual scenes glow with the magic that has sparked so many other classic romances, a perfect blend of wit and whimsy. The big picture is not perfect, but it is often as appealing as the smaller details. The movie pushes away its flaws with the sheer force of likeability.
Ryan Reynolds stars as William Hayes, a recently divorced New York stud with a cute, inquisitive daughter. Maya, played adoringly by Abigail Breslin, has some questions for her father after she learns some new vocabulary in sex education. She demands that her father tell the story of how he fell in love with her mom. The film functions mainly in flashback as told by dad to daughter, following William's journey to New York City, his ascent to prominence in the political campaign landscape, and his relationships (or "Pandora's hot sexy box"Â as Will calls it) with three separate women that each leave a lasting imprint on his life.
The ladies are all impeccably casted. Isla Fisher and Rachel Weisz glow within the dimensions of their characters, giving them added individual charms that no screenwriter could hope to capture on the page. Elizabeth Banks is given a less meaty role, but she plays it efficiently. The performances of the three actors are crucial to making a piece like this work. When it works, it is sexy as hell.
Writer and director Adam Brooks has an impeccable knack for several important aspects of his trade. For one, he has a compelling instinct for human nature and one of the strengths of his latest film is the earnest truth his characters convey scene after scene. He also has a keen eye for backdrop, never forgetting that his films take place during a specific time and place. Definitely, Maybe begins in 1992 (Will works for Bill Clinton's presidential campaign) and slowly progresses to present day. Watch how Brooks develops the progression of William's life with the developments of Clinton's presidency. Take note of his use of music to capture the sprit of the times.
Part of this talent, I am sure, comes from experience. The story is based on the filmmaker's own life story. Brooks combines the fear and excitement of moving to the big city with the high hopes and blind
I particularly enjoy the way Brooks is able to set up Will's first meetings with these girls. He allows the relationships to grow over time rather than making them fall in love the second they lock eyes. Will meets them briefly for the first time with obvious charm and chemistry on both sides. Only through a second encounter does the affection come into fruition. The dialogue is tongue-in-cheek without feeling too cheeky, sexy enough without coming off oversexed, and stylized enough to admire the craft without seeming self-aware. Of course, the lines are nothing without delivery. Ryan Reynolds proves himself to be a brilliant comic performer and a strongly appealing leading man. His speech has a playful sarcasm that is easily identifiable and insistently likeable and his boyish look fits well with the film's narrative structure.
All of these finely tuned minor sketches doodle a beautiful mess, coloring well outside the lines of generic formula, but one cannot watch Definitely, Maybe without noticing spots of lesser magic. The movie wanders a bit too much through its relationships, making for a slightly repetitive affair. Through a little restructuring, the film could easily lose the Elizabeth Banks role. While it serves an important role in the overall outcome of story, the many scenes dedicated to its development feel more paint-by-numbers than the rest of the film. The movie is also sometimes too conscious with its cuteness. Abigail Breslin is undeniably touching, but she is constantly used to remind us how precious she can be. After making a rousing joke about daddy being a boy slut early in the film, she later repeats the joke with gag-inducing conviction that feels awfully contrived: "I can’t believe you drank, and smoked, and was such a slut. But I still love you."Â The movie is smarter than this.
I am reluctant to point out all the minor imperfections of the movie (talking about a subplot about a lost book is far too painful), but they exist. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve, which ends up being its greatest strength and its biggest weakness. But Definitely, Maybe is far too beautiful and refreshing to push away. This is the kind of romantic comedy that works for everybody. Definitely. Not maybe.
Definitely, Maybe offers a nice package of bonus material. One featurette brings us behind the scenes with the production designer as she describes how the filmmakers were able to develop William's character and progress him
Movie Grade: B+
DVD Features Grade: B-
Overall Grade: B