Definitely, Maybe Defies Predictable Rom-Com Experience
- 2008 14 Feb
DVD Release Date: June 24, 2008
Theatrical Release Date: February 14, 2008
Rating: PG-13 (sexual content, including some frank dialogue, language and smoking)
Genre: Romantic comedy/drama
Run Time: 112 min.
Director: Adam Brooks
Actors: Ryan Reynolds, Abigail Breslin, Elizabeth Banks, Isla Fisher, Kevin Kline, Derek Luke, Rachel Weisz
And for those in the mood for an enjoyable rom-com just in time for Valentine’s Day, there’s something for everyone whether you’re in the “love stinks” camp or simply looking for some great date-night fare.
Despite the clunky title that doesn’t really help sell the movie, Definitely, Maybe has plenty going for it, including a winning cast, smart writing and a surprising artistic sensibility. As the soulful strains of “Everyday People” play in the opening credits, the audience is quickly transported into the fast-paced hub-bub of your typical day in Manhattan as Will Hayes (Ryan Reynolds in a true leading-man turn) sits at his desk, wondering how everything went wrong in his life.
Not only has Will failed in his political ambitions, (he now works in advertising) but he’s recently been served with divorce papers. The only bright spot in Will’s otherwise lackluster life are the days he gets to hang with his only daughter, Maya (a charming Abigail Breslin). In spite of his shortcomings, Will’s clearly found his groove as a father, and it’s refreshing to see such a positive father/daughter relationship on the big screen.
Meanwhile, Maya has been getting quite an education of her own these days—namely sex education. And as she’s learning about the “birds and the bees,” the precocious kid gets curious about her dad’s dating past and begs him to tell her a bedtime story on how he met her mother.
While he’s reluctant at first, Will can’t resist his daughter’s incessant pleading, so he gives in, saying that he’s going to change all of the names and some of the situations, basically putting a PG spin on a potentially R-rated story. Since there are plenty of other women involved, Will even ups the ante by letting Maya guess who her mother is in the story, a challenge that she accepts with relish.
Told primarily in flashback with occasional segues to the present to allow for some playful father/daughter banter between Will and Maya, the bulk of Definitely, Maybe takes place in the early to mid '90s. Back in 1992, Will decides to leave his Wisconsin hometown and his college sweetheart, Emily (Elizabeth Banks) to pursue his political ambitions in New York City, where he’s working the Bill Clinton campaign. Of course, while he’s gone, Will doesn’t anticipate anything changing relationship-wise and hopes to settle down and marry Emily as soon as Clinton’s elected.
Of course like most things in life, everything doesn’t always go as planned. Instead of ‘til-death-do-us-part with his seemingly perfect girlfriend, Will gets rejected. Big time. Before he has too much time to wallow, however, life perks up when he meets a wild child with journalistic ambitions, Summer (a terrific Rachel Weisz) and a free-spirited copy girl named April (a scene-stealing Isla Fisher) who becomes one of his best friends and confidants.
As Will navigates the often complicated waters of dating with Summer, April and other women along the way, there are many relatable and heart-tugging moments (although not in that annoying, gag-me sort of way). Much like About a Boy, which also chronicles the boy to man transformation of a guy named Will, Definitely, Maybe has a somber underbelly, which inevitably makes the redemption all the sweeter. Also adding an air of familiarity (since it wasn’t all that long ago), the Clinton era is lovingly captured in musical (cue Nirvana) and pop-culture splendor.
But what stands out most about Definitely, Maybe is the way it keeps you engaged from beginning to end. Rather than relying on a formulaic premise, the who-does-he-end-up-with factor keeps you intrigued and actively invested in the story, even when you know from the beginning that a divorce is impending.
So does Will eventually find true love as a parent and a spouse? I’ll never tell because, no doubt, you’ll enjoy the journey far too much yourself.
NOTE: Even though Definitely, Maybe is enjoyable from an artistic and storytelling standpoint, it’s definitely intended for older teens and adults, given the decidedly PG-13 subject matter (see cautions below).
- Drugs/Alcohol: Social drinking and cigarette smoking is shown throughout.
- Language/Profanity: There are several instances of your standard-issue profanity.
- Sex/Nudity: After Maya takes a sex-ed class at school, there’s plenty of graphic dialogue about what happens during sex, and hearing the anatomically correct terms is a bit shocking when it’s from the mouth of young Abigail Breslin’s character, Maya. There’s kissing shown and implied premarital sex in a couple of scenes. Will is referred to as a “slut” by Maya for dating so many women, and when reading Summer’s diary, Will discovers that Emily had a fling with Summer.
- Violence: Only of the comedic variety.