Romantic? Absolutely -- and More!
Don’t let the wishy-washy title Definitely, Maybe fool you. This extremely satisfying movie has more going for it than so many romantic comedies I’ve seen during the past ten years. Scoring high on both the romance and comedy meter, it also earns points for appealing performances by Ryan Reynolds, Isla Fisher, and Abigail Breslin as well as for an insightful script by writer/director Adam Brooks.
I’m not surprised about the quality of performances here, for Reynolds (The Amityville Horror) gets better with each movie, Fisher proved her star potential in Wedding Crashers, and Breslin -- even at her young age -- already earned an Oscar nomination for her terrific acting in Little Miss Sunshine. Nor was Brooks’ writing skill in question. After all, he previously wrote the screenplay for two romcoms I also enjoyed: Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and French Kiss. However, such inspired direction by Brooks was unexpected. With essentially three stories to tell, he manages to find the right pace for each one and to meld them together without destroying their unique contributions to the film’s essence.
What are those three stories? They concern a trio of women from Will’s (Reynolds) past. After receiving her first sex education lesson at school, Will’s 10-year-old daughter Maya (Breslin) demands that her father, who’s just received divorce papers, tell her about the women he has dated. Will turns her request into a game. He changes the names, and Maya must guess which of his girlfriends ended up being her mother. In a series of flashbacks, we meet Will’s college sweetheart Emily (Elizabeth Banks), his Jane Eyre -searching friend April (Fisher) and Summer (Rachel Weisz), an ambitious journalist he falls for. Because of incredibly bad timing, Will seems quite unlucky at love. But Maya listens well -- so well she might be able to help her father discover his true soul mate.
With his fine comic timing and leading-man good looks, Reynolds is definitely (no maybe about it) a very watchable actor. As Will, he projects a vulnerability that makes the character quite endearing. We can’t help hoping he will finally be happy. And, in his scenes with Breslin, Reynolds shows impressive sensitivity which adds considerably to the film’s charm. Breslin, a darling little actress, brings an “old soul” approach to the role of Maya. Although given limited screen time, she gets another chance to show off her remarkable acting chops in this wonderful film.
Among the women playing Will’s romantic interests, Fisher stands out. Yes, Banks (Fred Claus) and Weisz (The Fountain) deliver their usual quality performances, but Fisher has the meatiest role and makes the most of it. Her “April” is one of those movie characters we love at first sight. She’s funny, adorable and wise -- but almost as unlucky in love as Will. These two become good friends who go out of their way trying to deny the romantic chemistry between them.
Nostalgic, warm, bittersweet, and thoroughly entertaining, Definitely Maybe worked its magic on me. It’s now on my list of favorite contemporary romantic comedies -- along with Return to Me, Must Love Dogs, Serendipity, Down with Love, Music and Lyrics and Love Actually.
(Released by Universal Pictures and rated “PG-13” for sexual content, including some frank dialogue, language and smoking.)