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Zettel Film Reviews » Definitely Maybe – A RomCom both funny and romantic

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Definitely Maybe – A RomCom both funny and romantic

 

 

Father and Daughter - A Special Love

 

 

Definetely Maybe – Adam Brooks

I love feel-good movies: if they don’t insult my intelligence – and this one doesn’t. If they persuade me to believe in the characters and the emotions they have for each other – and this one does. If the feeling good has a little bit of truth about it; so I don’t feel manipulated – and here it does.

Given these qualities I am happy to forgive the unlikely coincidences of plot and narrative and just go with the flow when people who behave in ways I can understand display emotions I can identify with, even if the circumstances stretch credibility a touch. Definitely, Maybe is very much its own movie with a distinctive little central plot device, and beautifully played in an understated kind of way. That said, in tone, it is very reminiscent of Sleepless in Seattle and Serendipity – both of which hit my romantic spot perfectly. Guys this one’s a great night out with someone you care about. And gals – he might not admit it, but he’ll like it too.

Mid-thirties Will Hayes is in the throes of an amicable divorce. It’s his turn to pick up 12 year-old daughter Maya from school. Much furore at school as it was the day they did sex. Much precocious excited use of new words like ‘penis’ and ‘vagina’. Will is the right balance of discomposed but not embarrassed; surprised but not shocked. The real warmth at the heart of this movie starts here with the captivating screen presence of Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) as Maya. Breslin has a wonderfully insouciant voice and looks like a stern little school prefect librarian who’s just taken off her specs and wears her hair scraped back in a plait because books are more important than boys. And thank God without any ambiguous sexual undertow many Hollywood directors wittingly or not manage to imply. Intelligence shines out of her and her teasing use of her new sexual vocabulary captures the innocence required to make it funny rather than tacky.

Breslin has a perfect foil in Ryan Williams in his first big role. This likeable Canadian actor underplays beautifully to Breslin’s subtle appeal and so the key relationship works: you believe in these two as father and daughter. Intelligence is like a large perfectly still pond: drop a single pebble of thought in it and the ripples rush off in every direction. And sex is a big pebble at 12. So Maya wants to know all about Dad’s early ‘love’ life. He tells her he has had three important relationships and he’ll tell her about them but will change the names so she won’t know which one is her mother. A mystery love story.

So we hear first about ‘Emily’ (Elizabeth Banks) Will’s long term home town ‘intended’. It is 1993 and with political ambitions Will hitches up to Bill Clinton’s election campaign. This takes him away from Emily to work in New York as an unpaid intern. Will proves a complete klutz at the routine stuff he has to do and paid temp April (Isla Fisher) takes pity on him and they become friends. When Emily visits New York she turns down Will’s on one-knee Central Park proposal saying she’s slept with their flatmate back home and doesn’t share Will’s ambitions. Challenged by Will to make more of her life, April meanwhile travels the world keeping in touch by postcard. We cut back from time to time for Maya to put in her two cents-worth.

Emily has given Will a package to deliver to an old friend Summer who lives in New York. When he calls he finds aspiring journalist Summer (Rachel Weitz) living with the older Hampton Roth (Kevin Kline) writer, Professor and serial seducer. Will is now into political consultancy and gives Summer the break of writing a piece on his current client ex-Clinton aide Arthur Robredo. Her ‘puff’ piece goes down well. Summer becomes number two candidate for Maya’s mum. April returns from abroad, apparently having decided Will’s the one, only to witness him for the second time about to propose to another woman.

Writer/Director Adam Brooks (Bridget Jones, Wimbledon) gives Kline some of the best one-liner’s: in hospital after a heart attack covered in tubes to the nurse who asks if he’s comfortable he replies laconically “well I make a living”. Later accused of seducing a sophomore he says it was really two freshmen – “but that adds up to one sophomore”. Challenged by Roth to do a proper journalistic job on Robredo, Summer publishes a hatchet piece. Robredo loses the election and Will loses his job and Summer.

Will drifts for a while and eventually has a big dust-up with April after a birthday party she arranges for him. A few years later after a chance meeting with Summer, now pregnant, he attends a party she is giving and meets up again with Emily now working in New York.

By now Maya is beginning to realise that personal relationships can be pretty complicated and sometimes painful. Using another moving little device that threads through the movie, Brooks eventually draws all these strands together inevitably with a neatness that belies real life. But what the hell – it’s just a movie right? Good feel-good movies don’t pretend this is real life, they just persuade you for a couple of hours it could be. And that’s no mean artistic achievement.

Nicely played, neatly constructed, perceptively and at times wittily written, this one does what it says on the tin – it makes you feel good – about it; and for a couple of hours escapism, about yourself and the world. Enjoy.

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