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3 reviews, 8 user ratings

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Definitely, Maybe
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by Jay Seaver

"Definitely well done."
4 stars

Just by the numbers, "Definitely, Maybe" doesn't make for an uplifting romantic comedy - its premise, after all, depends on things not working out for at least two of the women in the flashbacks, while the present day framing sequences tell you right off the bat that the ones that do get together wind up getting divorced. If I had been seeing it with a girlfriend on Valentine's Day, this might not be the message I'd want sent.

And even better, there's an adorable little girl caught in the middle of this disintegrating marriage! Things kick off when Will Hayes (Ryan Reynolds) picks up his eleven-year-old daughter Maya (Abigail Breslin) from school for his weekend with her, only to find out she had a sex-ed class and now wants details about how she came to be. Will's reluctant, but she insists, so he makes it a game - he'll tell her the story, but he's changing the names, and she has to figure out who he wound up marrying - college sweetheart Emily (Elizabeth Banks), fellow Clinton campaign worker April (Isla Fisher), or journalist Summer (Rachel Weisz).

Given how politically polarized the country has become since Clinton's 1992 campaign, using that as the backdrop for a film looking to attract a broad audience may seem like a commercially questionable decision - why potentially alienate half your audience when the film isn't really about politics? It works, though, because Will's feelings about candidate and later later President Clinton are a nice barometer for his romantic life and maturation as a man - initially full of wide-eyed optimism and faith, later brokenhearted and cynical, and by the end no longer in a position where his feelings must be all-or-nothing. It's a metaphor well worth enduring some political talk that doesn't do much for the movie as a romance or a comedy.

It also works because Ryan Reynolds turns in a nice performance. He's generally relied on some form of slickness or another in his previous roles, whether it be the boys that the universe can't rattle (as in Van Wilder) or the wiseasses with a quip at the ready (as in Blade Trinity). Will gets hurt, confused, and angry, and it plays well. He's gotten to the point where he can turn off the charm, let us see the character as an immature jerk for a moment, and earn his way back into our good graces. He also pulls off my favorite moment in the movie, when an excited Maya is looking at penguins, chattering about how they mate for life, and the camera turns around to show Reynolds and the actress playing Maya's mother. They're a note-perfect display of lost chemistry; it's a moment which earns the movie a shot at an improbably happy ending.

Breslin's pretty great in that moment too, all the bubbly optimism that the other characters have lost, even though it wasn't long before that Maya had been nearly crushed by the way Will's story was heading. She does have her extra-precious moments, but not too many. We're probably supposed to be equally charmed by other other three ladies in the story, but that's not quite possible. Elizabeth Banks is nice enough as Emily, but we don't get the chance to meet her for the first time alongside Will, so she seems a little bland in comparison. We do get to meet Rachel Weisz's Summer, who seems fantastically wicked and enticing, and brings along Kevin Kline as the older professor she's been sleeping with (we just don't see enough of Kline on the big screen these days). And then there's Isla Fisher as April; she's the one who makes us laugh but also deftly handles the scenes that give her character some heft.

I like the job filmmaker Adam Brooks does; he balances his mix of characters well, not tipping his hand as to the end of the movie by favoring one character too much over another. He handles the passage of time well, so that the flashbacks cover a fair amount of time without either feeling like there are gaps or that Will is ping-ponging between women without the breakups having an effect on him. There's plenty of good jokes, but you can always take the characters seriously.

"Definitely, Maybe" is a low-key charmer. It's arguably not primarily a romantic comedy, but a story about growing out of youthful naïveté and through cynicism to become a true adult.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=16879&reviewer=371
originally posted: 04/04/08 21:50:57
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User Comments

3/17/13 Mireya love it, very cute movie 5 stars
8/28/12 Mireya very cute movie 5 stars
7/18/08 AnnieG A nice romance, almost a romantic comedy. Has lots of charm (and, um, no real politics). 4 stars
7/06/08 g. awesome 5 stars
4/18/08 Brianna Holden Indeed, Carmen. Movie actually for 3 days had me convinced to vote for Osa -- oops -- Obama 1 stars
4/12/08 Carmen Crowe Nothing like extorting a movie ticket price to pay for a 2 hour ad for the Clinton regime! 1 stars
2/17/08 ceredo Wow! A great movie! 5 stars
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  14-Feb-2008 (PG-13)
  DVD: 24-Jun-2008



[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Adam Brooks

Written by
  Adam Brooks

  Ryan Reynolds
  Isla Fisher
  Derek Luke
  Abigail Breslin
  Elizabeth Banks
  Rachel Weisz

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