On seeing the trailer for the new romantic comedy Definitely, Maybe, my initial reaction was that it was too bad that a film with so many actresses whose work I enjoy would be ruined by the presence of resident screwball Ryan Reynolds. Imagine my surprise when Reynolds proved an engaging presence in this delightful romantic comedy. He easily rises to the challenge presented by writer/director Adam Brooks and co-stars Rachel Weisz, Isla Fisher, and Elizabeth Banks.
Initially the premise of the film seems contrived and overly cute. Will Hayes (Reynolds) has been served divorce papers, prompting his inquisitive daughter, Maya (Abigail Breslin), to ask how he and her mother met. To keep things interesting, Will focuses primarily on three of the many women he’s dated and changes their names to keep his daughter on her toes and us engaged. We are treated to a series of flashbacks that begin in 1992 as we see Will begin to work for the Clinton campaign, where he meets April (Fisher), another volunteer. Unfortunately, she asks him to deliver a diary, parts of which he reads in one of the film’s funnier scenes, to her friend Summer (Weisz), and he finds himself attracted to her as well. Rounding out the trio is Emily (Banks), the girl Will has left back home in Wisconsin, whom he calls when he’s drunk or lonely.
This could have been another pedestrian romantic comedy, but Brooks insists on holding his cards close to his vest when it comes to letting us know the identity of Will’s soon-to-be-ex, and that helps make the film engaging and ultimately moving. Instead of leaving us with a couple about to embark on a beautiful relationship, we are left at the end of a marriage. Having just seen how it all came to be, this sort of resolution, especially where Maya is concerned, proves more poignant than might be expected.
With Fisher and Weisz on board, it’s easy to see why Will would be torn between the two of these confident, smart, sexy women. The chemistry these three have is as natural as the change of seasons, making the possibility of love between Will and either of the women possible and desirable. Banks is engaging as well, yet she suffers from a lack of screen time. As a result, her character functions as nothing more than an artificial fly in the ointment, present to needlessly complicate the plot and nothing more. As a bonus, Kevin Kline is on board as Summer’s boozy older lover. Railing constantly about the plight of the modern world, the actor steals every scene he’s in. In the end, the film rests on the shoulders of Reynolds and Breslin, and they surprisingly play their father-daughter scenes with a degree of subtlety that is winning.
Although it would be easy to categorize Definitely, Maybe as a chick flick, that would not only dismissive but inaccurate as well. Although the film’s romantic elements seem to be front and center, Will’s efforts to explain to his daughter how he met his mother and how he lost her make the film tick. This is a sweet love story of a different sort, focusing not just on romantic relationships but also the sacred bond between a parent and a child, making for more post-Valentine’s Day cheer that viewers are likely to return to again and again.