While not a classic of the genre, Definitely, Maybe is worth a look by even those who usually steer clear of romantic comedies.
As a male, I am biologically unable to enjoy most romantic comedies. I get glassy eyed and do that half-vomiting thing anytime I’m asked to sit through a trite and predictable telling of someone’s romantic misadventures. It makes sense in that most of these movies are made for women and I’m not one of those, despite my sometimes girlish laugh.
Writer/director Adam Brooks’ latest addition to the genre, Definitely, Maybe, doesn’t exactly turn the rom-com bag of tricks on its head, but it leaves out most of the horrible clichés and is one of the better relationship flicks in recent memory. While it’s not exactly realistic, characters do behave more like actual people and less like characters in a movie. The premise isn’t anything that is likely to happen in reality: Will Hayes (Ryan Reynolds) tells his ten-year old daughter Maya (Abigail Breslin) the story of how he and Maya’s mother got together. The catch is that Will was seriously involved with three women in his youth and he’s not going to tell Maya (or us) who ended up being his wife.
That silly plot device aside, Reynolds is great as a man full of ideals working in New York for the first Bill Clinton presidential campaign. The movie touches not only on his relationships, but how Will changed as a person over the years and why. I’ve never cared much for Reynolds but he is appealing in the role and plays off well with his three leading ladies. Elizabeth Banks, Isla Fisher, and Rachel Weiz are all excellent and funny. I rolled my eyes on realizing they couldn’t give us two blondes or anything, they all had to have different hair color, but they come across more as real people doing real things than you usually get in this type of movie.
Brooks also gets in a few jokes about the size of cell phones in the early 90’s and how Internet connections were once slow dial-up affairs, but mostly he just lets his top-notch cast be funny and sad without getting too sappy. Ok, the ending wants to be tough and clear-eyed but then it has to toss on a second Hollywood cliché ending, as if someone yelled at Brooks, “this is a rom-com, dammit, you can’t end it like that!” It’s too bad they felt the need to sell out, but it might bring a few tears out of the remaining dry-eyed hard hearts like me.
If you’re someone who hates stuff like The Wedding Planner, Nine Months, The Bachelor, and Good Luck Chuck, then be aware it is possible to make a romantic comedy that doesn’t rely solely on absurd misunderstandings or contain any declarations of love in front of a group of strangers. Definitely, Maybe relies on good acting, funny lines, a very cute kid, and enough real emotion to carry it off. It’s worth checking out.
The DVD box and other promotional materials of Definitely, Maybe notes that it is from “Makers of Notting Hill and Love Actually. The producers did produce those films, but it should probably say “From the Writer of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and Practical Magic” for full disclosure. Adam Brooks does redeem himself from those two disasters and even tosses in a decent commentary track on this disc to boot. He’s joined on the commentary by star Ryan Reynolds and they are informative and funny, but very, very low key. There are few too many lengthy silences where neither has anything to say, but a fan of the movie will get something out it.
The remaining extras on the DVD are not extensive, but this is a romantic comedy, not Lord of the Rings. There are about five minutes in deleted scenes. One, involving the use of the f-word, is pretty funny and there is also a section about Will leaving his ad agency job and going back into politics during the time he is telling the story to Maya. There is no context for any of the scenes or commentary, but they do flesh out a few characters a little more.
The disc includes a 12-minute making-of featurette called “Creating a Romance.” It is very pedestrian and doesn’t shed light on anything (not that there was much to highlight in what seems like a straightforward shoot). It relies heavily on people saying things like “Oh, Ryan was so great in this movie because of…..” and “the director was great to work with and was really open to…..” Nothing particularly insightful, but nice if you are a big fan of one of the stars.
The final extra is a five minute special call “The Changing Times of Definitely, Maybe.” This one focuses on how they showed the passage of time from 1992 to 1998 in New York City. It does have some interesting production design comments, but also has that annoying “we filmed ON LOCATION in New York City, you just can’t duplicate the energy, blah, blah, blah” that I’m starting to get sick of hearing.
The picture and sound quality are good and it’s a nice package for this movie. The producers haven’t gone out of their way to make it anything special, but it’s probably enough to satisfy fans. The movie will probably catch you off guard in a good way and is enough of a reason to pick up this disc, even if the extras don’t impress.