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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Really Sorta!

I'm not sure if I've encountered a more ungainly movie title than Definitely, Maybe. I suppose Love Actually is a contender. And like that film, somewhere in the screenplay to Definitely, Maybe those very words are spoken, giving the strange title a bit of context that kinda-sorta makes sense. Really. Sorta. (Hey, there's a title: Really Sorta!)

Unsurprisingly then, Definitely, Maybe comes from some of the same filmmakers responsible for Love Actually, and it's the same genre of movie: it's a mushy romantic comedy with a plot that's as old as the hills freshened up a bit through the use of some nifty narrative trickery. It doesn't rise to the level of Love Actually (which is one of my favorite movies ever), but it's got quite a bit of quirky charm going for it.

So, what's Definitely, Maybe about? Well, it tells the tale of the proverbial lonely guy who can't figure out who he's supposed to be with. However, it doesn't start out being about that, using some misdirection to make us think it's about something else. A man named Will, working in an ad agency in New York, receives his final divorce papers, which puts him in the mood to finally tell his daughter Maya (who is one of the cuter movie kids I've seen recently, by the way) the story of how he met her mother (the woman he is about to divorce). However, he decides that in the course of telling her the story, he will change the names of the women involved, and that she therefore has to try and pick out which one is actually her mother.

So it's set up as kind of a "love mystery", in a way. Will, it turns out, has in his life had three "great loves", and each is a "contender" for turning out to be Maya's mother. There's "Emily", Will's college sweetheart; there's "Summer", the journalism grad student Will meets in the course of working for Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign; and there's "April", the copy-girl in Bill Clinton's New York office. These women come and go into and out of Will's life for various reasons, and at times he's truly in love with each one (or that's how he tells the tale), so we're kept as in the dark as Maya as to who her mother will turn out to be.

(Yes, this framing device is not dissimilar to the CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother. An idea's an idea, folks.)

As the movie progresses deeper into Will's travails of love, it slowly dawns on Maya that obviously her mother can't be the one true love of her father's life, since he's divorcing her. Who can it really be, then? Well, by the time Maya's realizing this herself, we're realizing already just who Will really belongs with in the first place. The answer's pretty conventional by romantic comedy standards, especially when Will buys a certain meaningful gift for one of his three lady loves. Still, the movie does a pretty good job of at least making it seem as if Will's future with this particular lady is hopeless, pretty much right up until the very last scene.

A lot of the film's humor stems from poking fun at how things have changed in so short a time since the early 1990s. At one point, Will is handed one of those gigantic first-generation cell phones, the ones that could only be carried around if one was wearing Batman's belt; at another, the Bill Clinton campaign staff is sitting around watching the news, and Bryant Gumble interviews the owner of the Texas Rangers, George W. Bush, and someone scoffs, "This guy better plan on spending the rest of his life in baseball." Or later on, when someone's job security depends on getting some information off the Internet immediately...and in the middle of New York City, they have to wait for the posh hotel's dial-up connection to kick in.

Acting-wise, the movie's not any great shakes, but everybody gets the job done. Rachel Weisz ("Summer") is probably the biggest name among the leads, but my favorite of the women was Isla Fisher as "April". (It's the long red hair, obviously.) Ryan Reynolds's first impression as Will is pretty bland, but he grew on me in the course of the movie. Everybody's good looking, but not so good looking that it's distracting. Kevin Kline has a cameo as a pompous-ass college professor that's worth watching for. If the performances aren't great, they're not distracting, either. The music is a combination of nicely selected pop songs and earnest "romantic comedy" music (heavy on the piano).

Like I said, this is nothing more than a well-made mushy romantic comedy. If that's not your genre, then for the love of God, stay away from this movie. But I enjoyed it.

1 comment:

Erin said...

I liked that movie quite a bit. (I even cried...but I'm an easy target.) It always reminds me of Patton Oswalt's rant about movie titles. His made up example is "Feelin' Sorta Kinda."

:)