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  • 12A
  • Comedy, Drama
  • 2008
  • 111 mins

Definitely, Maybe

Definitely, Maybe

Synopsis

Ryan Reynolds stars in this romantic comedy about the confused erotic history of a Clinton supporter, written and directed by Adam Brooks

About

A ‘How I Met Your Mother’ style comedy with an impeccable cast featuring Ryan Reynolds, Elizabeth Banks, Isla Fisher and Rachel Weisz, Definitely Maybe opens as Reynolds’ thirty-something advertising executive decides to look back over his romantic history for the benefit of his ten-year old daughter (Abigail Breslin). Aiming for When Harry Met Sally style smarts, this is definitely (maybe) a refreshing cut above more run-of-the-mill rom-coms.

Critic's Review

"I'm gonna tell you the story and I'm not telling you who your mum is, you have to figure that out for yourself. I'm gonna change all of the names and some of the facts." This is how thirty-something Will Hayes (Reynolds) introduces the tale of his premarital history to his 10-year-old daughter Maya (Breslin) - and while the advertising executive may give his erotic chronicles a romantic spin, we know from the start that this is to be no children's fairytale.

The story begins in 1992, with fresh-faced Will arriving in New York to work on the presidential campaign for a then equally fresh-faced Bill Clinton. Over the next 16 years, three very different women will drift in and out of the picture, changing the course of both Will's life and their own. Could Maya's mother turn out to be Will's college sweetheart Emily (Elizabeth Banks), magically transformed from girl next door to urban princess? Or is she April (Isla Fisher), Will's zany apolitical friend with chronic bad timing? Or did Maya appear nine months after Summer (Rachel Weisz), the adventurous, ambitious writer whose attraction to Will is matched by her thing for the older, decadent academic Hampton Roth (Kevin Kline, in show-stopping form)? No matter, for with Will now on the brink of divorce, this is one bedtime story that definitely (maybe) cannot have a happy ending.

It may feature a little kid who combines precocious wisdom with criminal cuteness, but make no mistake, Definitely, Maybe is aimed squarely at the adult end of the romantic comedy market, in the territory previously occupied by Annie Hall and When Harry Met Sally. All the tell-tale signs are there: the on-again off-again tango of modern love, the nervy bustle of the Big Apple, the wittiest of erotic banter, and relationships that are shown to mature and deepen over time - with no sassy, over-accessorised teens to spoil the mood.

Writer-director Adam Brooks has previously penned such bland rom-com fare as Bridget Jones The Edge Of Reason and Wimbledon, but with Definitely, Maybe he has hit upon a formula that may appeal even to the genre's most fervent haters. Look into the heart of Definitely, Maybe and you will find the plot of TV sitcom 'How I Met Your Mother' - but by tying Will's ups and downs to the Clinton era, Brooks is able to bring both politics and nostalgia to this tale of betrayal and second chances. Best of all, the ending defies all predictability, to admit some decidedly unromantic realities (disappointment, disillusion, divorce) even as it delivers on all the genre's fluffiest conventions.

Of course Will marries one of his love interests, and of course he winds up with one of them in the closing reel. But given that at one time or another he has loved all three, the bittersweet lesson to be learned is that you find 'the one' only in children's stories. Whereas in real life, true love, far from being eternal, is very much rooted in time - or, to borrow one of Maya's terms, lovers are always only 'rehearsing', even after their big day.

In a nutshell: Definitely a comedy, maybe a romance - has enough sophistication and surprise to keep even the most hardened curmudgeon smiling to the bittersweet end.

By Anton Bitel

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Derek Luke, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Adam Ferrara, Nestor Serrano, Rachel Weisz, Elizabeth Banks, Kevin Kline, Ryan Reynolds
  • Director: Adam Brooks
  • Writer: Adam Brooks
  • Producer: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner
  • Photographer: Florian Ballhaus
  • Composer: Clint Mansell

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