Thursday, February 07, 2008

I have a soft, slightly acerbic side too, you know...

Definitely, Maybe may have a rather odd and insistently quirky title, but the film itself is actually rather good: warm and gentle but trying its best to skirt cliche, and even throwing in a surprisingly prominent political side plot to ground its central characters in a tangible, realistic existance. It helps, in that, that this is a story told in flashback that actually specifies when its taking place, so, instead of having characters drifting around in a vague abstraction of a world, they're contextualised within real events and some development is actually drawn from them. It may be Working Title but Definitely, Maybe doesn't really subscribe to the usual familiar boy-meets-girl plotting, acknowledging from its outset that love doesn't always work out- Will Hayes (Ryan Reynolds, subdued and therefore more likeable than usual) is telling his daughter (Abigail Breslin) the story of how he married her mother through the disguised prism of the disguised identities of the three main women who were in his life, prompted by the fact that the couple are now getting divorced. Perhaps the best thing to say about this film- which I admit does to some extent capitulate to familiar arcs and is distressingly vague in one of the three women's characterizations- is that, for at least the other two women, it creates identities that are not defined by quirks or surface observations but actually embues them with some depth. And, in this, you do- or at least I did- actually care what happens in the end, for the film has craftily navigated its way around the stories of Will and the three women (played by Elizabeth Banks, Isla Fisher and Rachel Weisz), letting all four characters make mistakes but never villanizing, and eschewing the familiar bait-and-switch turnarounds that these films are so oft falling prey to. At one point the film actually skips ahead by four years, leaving its characters to change and fester instead of forcing them into situations that just wouldn't have fit. Alright, so having an eleven year-old girl repeatedly spouting words like "slut" is a little discomfiting, but it's hardly unrealistic with the world in the state it is today. Definitely, Maybe may be a romantic comedy, but it's a good one, and it does at least acknowledge, even while it gives in to heart-warming conclusions (but by that time you want them), that the world is not perfect, that people are flawed, and that mistakes are not always so easy to forgive. B

Oh, and I think I may be totally in love with Isla Fisher now that she's finally played an actual character as opposed to a nymphomaniac or someone stuck in a bonkers mess, so there's an excuse for you to disregard the previous, if you want one. Not that you should, you cynics.

No comments: