Definitely, Maybe (2008)
Genre: Romantic Dramedy
Definitely, Maybe is another film Netflix kept urging on me and I kept resisting. The star ranking was only slightly above an average of 3 and the description didn’t grab me. I like a HEA in a movie that looks to have romance in it and with this one I just wasn’t sure I’d get it. But finally, in an effort to review more recent movies after a spell of 1930s/40s era ones, I heaved a sigh and clicked “add to queue” then “move to top.” And while the movie doesn’t exactly give a HEA ending, it does deliver a HFN with optimism for the future that is enough for me to be happy.
“Interested in knowing how her divorcing parents met, young Maya (Abigail Breslin) listens as her dad, Will (Ryan Reynolds), recounts his romantic past with three different and special women — Emily (Elizabeth Banks) , April (Isla Fisher) and Summer (Rachel Weisz)– leaving Maya to guess which one is her mom.”
So, maybe you can see what I mean about the blurb not exactly promising hearts and flowers. The leading man is getting divorced from the mother of his daughter and giving her a flashback on his romance with her mother which has obviously gone sour. Sounds like a winner, yeah? But as Reynolds said about the script and several commenters at Netflix seconded, this it a movie which I had no idea how it was going to go or where it would end until it did. I had my suspicions, some of which were right and others of which were wrong, but honestly I wasn’t sure who would wind up being the woman Will married or how the film would still end up being called a romance. But trust me, it more or less does.
This is definitely a film with a plot which would not have worked more than 3 decades earlier than now. The tone is more modern with divorce being something that happens even to the best of relationships and – this was a nice surprise – there really isn’t a bad guy or woman in it. No one ends up being a screaming bitch or cheating bastard as no one ends up the one “at fault” for ending the marriage or for the end of the many relationships in the story. For most of them, it’s a matter of two people not being at the same place – emotionally or relationshiply – at the same time. One breakup is caused by Will’s then girlfriend doing her journalistic job and digging up the truth about a candidate for whom Will is working but I end up respecting her for sticking to her principles. Will actually manages to maintain good relations with all three women which, as I mentioned earlier, is such a treat. But what I actually like best of all is his relationship with his daughter. While he’s telling her the story late in the evening, he promises to finish it the next day and tell her what the happy ending is. When that moment comes, I got a touch teary and smiled at how much he loves his little girl.
I also like that the movie takes place over the course of 16 years which gives a lot of time to follow the changes in the characters’ lives. It’s nice to see Will and the other women mature and evolve. When Will makes his final move, I have the feeling that this time, the people involved are both on the same page at the same time and that the relationship truly will work out. And that it has his daughter’s blessing. I do agree that it is a touch unrealistic to believe that Maya wouldn’t be able to guess her mother’s identity for as long as the story telling takes place but then Will does announce as he starts that he’s going to change names and details and during the film I was caught up enough in it not to notice this til the end.
Breslin is cute without being obnoxious, Reynolds has great chemistry with Banks, Fisher and Weisz, the City of New York shines and it manages to be a romantic comedy/drama that I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen next. The relationships seemed realistic and there weren’t those rom-com, chick-flick OTT hoops to be jumped through to keep things going. “Definitely, Maybe” turns out to be a movie I might not have watched except for Netflix but one I’m glad that I did.