Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Definitely, Maybe

How do you turn the story of a guy getting divorced telling his daughter the story of his pathetic, failure-laden dating history and failed idealistic career that started in politics and ended in newspaper advertising into something interesting for the audience?

Flashbacks. Lots of flashbacks. Now, from time to time the flashback or the using of cuts from a fictionalized story to the "real-life" story can was used to good effect in The Princess Bride (1987) for example. Other times it is just annoying. This had a bit of each. Whenever they wrote themselves into a corner they simply flashed to "real life" and basically reset the movie.

Will Hayes (Ryan Reynolds) tries to be likable...but it is hard when he puts his career ahead of his college flame, cheats on every girl he is dating, and will give up nothing himself. There are interesting dilemmas such as when his girlfriend writes an ethically correct article that derails the chances for the candidate Will is working for...and he dumps her over it. Right? Wrong? There are several possible answers and Definitely, Maybe (2008) wisely does not try to answer it. Nor does it answer the brilliant question posed by Maya Hayes (Abigail Breslin).

First she asks why Will fell in love in the first place to which he gives a pat answer variation on, "she was smart, funny, and pretty" to which Maya asks something along the lines of "So when and why did she stop being smart and funny?"

There is no good answer to that one, is there? Sometimes I suppose it just happens. The movie never explores it but does come up with a typical improbable yet believable within the framework of the movie solution to make sure everyone goes home happy.

Abigail Breslin is turning into the go-to girl for sad-toned romantic comedies such as No Reservations (2007) and this...but she has the sad, pathetic look to go with it. She turns the mood somewhat more somber than it would otherwise be...though how happy you want a child to appear whose beloved mother was killed (No Reservations) in a car accident or whose parents are divorcing in this one is an open question. She does a creditable job, however.

The story, once broken down from the flashbacks, is pretty mundane and the interest comes primarily from the flashback angle. The acting is okay, with the best scenes coming from Hunter S. Thompson rip-off Hampton Roth (Kevin Kline). The cinematography is fine, not too distracting and overall, it is fine for what it is...a movie intended to make money by being released at the right time instead of by being a good movie.

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