The people who raised you used to be young. Don’t let those years of wisdom and nurturing fool you; Mom and Dad were just like us once. As fun as it is to listen to their stories about way back when, there are certain things that we don’t really need (or want) to know. Out of those potentially awkward topics, a parent’s former (and present) sex life tops the list. While “Definitely, Maybe” is what it claims to be – a comedy about a cute kid asking her cute dad to tell a cute story about how he fell in love with her mom – let’s just say the narrative is pretty detailed. When your barely pre-teen daughter is labeling you as a slut, you might need to re-evaluate your bedtime story.
While the story in the film might serve as a somewhat unconventional way to get your kid to fall asleep, it also makes for a decent love story. Romantic comedies are typically cut and dry: one girl, one guy and some ridiculous obstacle they have to overcome in order to be together. Real life usually isn’t that simple. People change, lovers come in and out of our lives, sometimes you have too many options and sometimes, you have none.
Will Hayes (Ryan Reynolds, “Smokin’ Aces”) is lucky enough to have met three lovely ladies, and unlucky enough to still be alone. Precocious and disturbingly in tune with her dad’s emotions, Maya (Abigail Breslin, “Little Miss Sunshine”) is fresh off a premature exposure to a sex-ed class and still dealing with her parents’ pending divorce. In what seems like a premise designed for rediscovered love, she convinces Will to tell her the story of how he fell in love with her mom. The fun for Maya – and for us – is that she has to pick her mom out from three different women, all of whom Will has fallen in love with at one time or another.
The story follows Will from a bright-eyed college student working for Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign to present day. His leading ladies, college sweetheart Emily (Elizabeth Banks, “The 40 Year Old Virgin”), fellow Clinton worker April (Isla Fisher, “Wedding Crashers”) and writer Summer (Rachel Weisz, “The Fountain”), move in and out of the story and Will’s life. While the love story takes center stage, writer and director Albert Brooks (“Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason”) wisely spends time focusing on Will’s progression from idealistic youngster to somewhat-jaded father. What’s happening to Will’s worldview affects his relationships, and the movie does a good job balancing the two stories, keeping it all grounded in a strong sense of reality.
Reality also plays into the conclusion of the film. The bedtime story sets up the audience to expect a certain ending, but it’s not necessarily what they’ll receive. Nevertheless, the ending is satisfactory enough to make for a decent addition to the rom-com genre. The presence of Ryan Reynolds doesn’t hurt either. He’s likeable and engaging, even if he is caught once or twice mugging for the camera. “Definitely, Maybe” may not be a prize pick in innovative filmmaking: There are still romantic clichés packed into every scene and the acting, while decent, isn’t exactly Oscar worthy. Still, there are worse ways to spend your time. You could be listening to a story about how your parents met.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
At Showcase and Quality 16