Definitely Maybe (2008) dir. Adam Brooks
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Abigail Breslin, Rachel Weisz, Isla Fisher, Elizabeth Banks
“Definitely Maybe” is certainly not a failure, nor does it provide a full 90mins of entertainment. It sails in the middle of the road in terms of drama and comedy and doesn’t quite satisfy either. Though not a complete success, Ryan Reynolds’ and Abigail Breslin’s wonderful banter which frames the story is enough to make this film watchable.
Will Hayes (Ryan Reynolds) is about to get divorced. The otherwise dismal day is made better when he has to pick up his daughter Maya (Abigail Breslin) at school. This is no ordinary day though, as it was their first sex education class which has brought up a million and one questions for Will – one of them is how Will fell in love with her Mom and when she ‘came to be’. Will reluctantly tells her the story – the long version.
It goes back to 1992 when he was working on the Bill Clinton presidential campaign and how he came to meet three key women in his life – all of which, at one time or another, he fell in love with. There’s Emily (Elizabeth Banks) his college sweetheart, April (Isla Fisher) a spunky copygirl in the office, and Summer (Rachel Weisz) a career-ambitious political writer. One of these women became Maya’s mother, but not necessarily Will’s one true love.
The narrative drive of the film gets lost somewhere along in the line, as I actually forgot the purpose of the story Will was telling to his daughter. I couldn’t remember if Maya didn’t know who her mother was, or that she knew, but didn’t know how he and her mother fell in love. What exactly is the purpose of this exercise? Is it so Will could fall in love again and cancel his divorce? This seems to be the big mystery of the film. In the end there’s nothing truly profound or earth-shattering revealed.
In most of these genre films, the best comedy is supplied by the supporting characters (ie. Rhys Ifans in "Notting Hill"). “Definitely Maybe” is sorely lacking in that department. Will’s buddies come from the political campaign milieu. Derek Luke, his closest friend is no comedian and he only serves that sounding board role for the lead character to express his thoughts. He never enters the storyline significantly enough, nor does he crack any funny jokes. The political environment Will works in is neither interesting nor funny. Even Kevin Kline fails to excite – his drunken layabout author character never finds its funny bone.
Ryan Reynolds is always watchable on screen though. He gave a heart to the baffoonish extravaganza, “Smoking Aces”, made “Blade Trinity” less intolerable and shined bright in the confusing "The Nines". In “Definitely Maybe” even when he screws up, the audience interminably cares for him. He is a great romantic lead.
I expected more from writer/director Adam Brooks who knows the genre better than most (he wrote, “French Kiss”, “Wimbledon” and "Bridget Jones Diary: The Edge of Reason”). But, then again, "Definitely Maybe" was made for my wife, not me. And she liked it. So maybe it is a success.