Ah, the romantic comedy. I have a love/hate relationship with this drama, as it does have the capacity to spew out some of the worst garbage of the year. When done, correctly, however, it can be one of the most winning trips to the movies couples can make. How is this for a proposition? From now on, Working Title Films is the only production company that is allowed to make films in this genre. Their track record is impeccable, and they produced what I consider to be the best romantic comedy ever made, Love Actually. Definitely, Maybe could be remembered in similar fashion and it’s likely the best entry into the genre since the aforementioned 2003 triumph.
Will Hayes (Reynolds) is getting divorced. He is served the papers as the film opens, but his biggest concern is how he’s going to explain it to his eleven-year-old daughter, Maya (Breslin). The depressing conversation quickly turns into a game. Maya, ever so curious, wants to know about his life before marriage. Will changes the names of his past romantic partners and challenges Maya to identify her mother out of a pool of three women Will dated before getting married. Thus begins a big flashback to 1992, with Will working his way up the political ladder via the Bill Clinton campaign. Maya is about to learn that love isn’t so easy.
Funny, touching, and grounded in reality, Definitely, Maybe is a joy to watch from beginning to end. The script, by writer/director Adam Brooks, moves about in a leisurely pace and lets each scene play itself out perfectly. Will’s female interests are all believable, which is paramount to the story’s success. There’s Emily (Banks), the standard girl next door, April (Fisher), the care-free New Yorker, and Summer (Weisz), a liberal journalist. Brooks gives each woman a terrific character arc, making the conclusion all the more satisfying. From a personal standpoint, the early 90’s references make the film even more fun. They were better days indeed; Nirvana was at the top of the charts and a cell phone was the size of a football – and rare.
Ryan Reynolds is pitch-perfect as Will. He dials down his signature persona and rides Will’s emotional rollercoaster very effectively. His scenes with Breslin are miraculously underplayed and feel authentic. Speaking of Breslin, could there possibly be a better young actress working today? I think not. Brooks wisely avoids making Maya another stock, overeducated (for their age) kid character. Breslin runs with it and continues to turn in stellar work. The three female leads are all terrific, particularly Isla Fisher as April. She continues to be a breakout talent.
Valentine’s Day has brought us some excellent romantic comedies, but Definitely, Maybe is a cut above. This is what happens when an excellent filmmaker and a producing team who know quality when they see it come together. This is top-notch work across the board and I wouldn’t be one bit surprised to see it receiving repeat viewings years down the line. As many headaches as this genre has struck me with, it sure is rewarding to see something like this hit the big screen on the mushiest weekend of the year. This is a gem.
Studio: Universal Pictures
Length: 105 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, including some frank dialogue, language and smoking.
Theatrical Release: February 14, 2008
Directed by: Adam Brooks
Written by: Adam Brooks
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Abigail Breslin, Derek Luke, Isla Fisher, Elizabeth Banks, Rachel Weisz