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Friday Film Review: Definitely, Maybe

Definitely, Maybe (2008)
Genre: Romantic Dramedy
Grade: B

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.

~Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

13 Comments

  1. Dani Alexander
    Jan 13, 2012 @ 05:23:07

    Oh, I love this movie. It’s realistic , even while a slight suspension of belief is needed for parts of it. All in all it’s a very romantic contemporary movie with a lot of pieces that relate to men and women alike. I can’t say enough how much I loved it because it wasn’t so fluffy that my eyes rolled and it wasn’t trying too hard.

    I’m really glad you watched it too, Jayne, and ecstatic you reviewed it here. I’d like to see more movies made like this where the ending feels so good, even when it’s not the traditional HEA. I hope the review inspires more watchers!

  2. dri
    Jan 13, 2012 @ 06:28:47

    Yaaaaayyyy! Oh I’m so glad you watched it, Jayne. I recently rented it out again and yep, it worked for me all over again. Although I did have a deeper understanding of Summer this time around which I didn’t expect. Hm. *ponders*

    But yes, oh my, here I was nodding along to everything in your review, especially about his relationship with his daughter.

    Wasn’t the political climate quite an interesting choice too? The whole hope and disillusionment theme borne out? And oh man, I was listening to Save The Best For Last the other day and wondering why it was nudging something in my brain. Now I know! Hee hee. Such an awesome little touch.

    Not that there’s anyfing wrong with 1930/40s movies. *bounces around, fists up, ready to take on anyone who says otherwise* :p

  3. Jayne
    Jan 13, 2012 @ 06:33:02

    @Dani Alexander: If you’ve got suggestions for more movies like this one, please let me know. I’ve gotten some good ones here and am always open to more.

  4. Jayne
    Jan 13, 2012 @ 06:39:17

    @dri: I was laughing my head off during the scenes when Will is trying to deal with Maya’s questions about sex ed. Absolutely hilarious.

    I have plenty more 30s/40s movies I’d like to review but I try to mix things up so as to stay out of a rut.

  5. sarah mayberry
    Jan 13, 2012 @ 07:29:17

    I love this movie, too. Like you my brain was working away, trying to decide who was the mother, who he should be with. A romantic comedy that keeps you guessing is a rare beast indeed and I thought this movie, while not perfect, was very, very entertaining and human and charming. And I now need to see it again. So far that’s a re-read of Blue Eyed Devil and a re-watch of Definitely, Maybe that Dear Author has added to my life queue this week!

  6. jennifer armintrout
    Jan 13, 2012 @ 08:54:40

    I loved this movie, and you’re right, the relationship between him and his daughter is the relationship that really steals the movie.

  7. Jayne
    Jan 13, 2012 @ 09:23:31

    @sarah mayberry:

    A romantic comedy that keeps you guessing is a rare beast indeed and I thought this movie, while not perfect, was very, very entertaining and human and charming.

    So true. I’ve watched so many rom coms/rom-whatevers now that I can usually predict exactly what or which type of scene will happen next. If a story amuses or entertains me while that’s happening – I’m pretty much okay with it but to not know what’s next – that’s wonderful!

    And I now need to see it again. So far that’s a re-read of Blue Eyed Devil and a re-watch of Definitely, Maybe that Dear Author has added to my life queue this week!

    Well, we don’t want you to have to look for something to fill an empty weekend. ;)

  8. Bonnie Dee
    Jan 13, 2012 @ 10:25:29

    IMO Abigail Breslin can do no wrong. I love that girl in everything I see her in. I wasn’t too sure about this movie the first time I watched it, but liked it even better on second viewing. The script is smart, and the characters all shades of gray, which is great.

    BTW, not to bug, but I still want to you watch and review Outsourced. I think you’ll enjoy it.

  9. Jayne
    Jan 13, 2012 @ 10:29:09

    @Bonnie Dee: I did watch and review “Outsourced.” The review posted October 14th.

  10. wendy
    Jan 13, 2012 @ 18:16:17

    I am not much of a movie fan, usually because I can see the mechanics of movie making, but I am a sucker for relationships other than h/h.
    IMO The Truth about Cats and Dogs didn’t need that tacked on scene where the Janeane Garafolo character gets her man because the real relationship growth was between her and the Uma Thurman character.
    After reading your review I wanted to search out and watch my favourite relationship movie, Gregory’s Girl. I love the relationship between that brother and sister.

  11. Dani Alexander
    Jan 13, 2012 @ 20:53:31

    @Jayne:

    If you’ve got suggestions for more movies like this one, please let me know. I’ve gotten some good ones here and am always open to more.

    I don’t think I’ve seen a movie that fits in the same category as this one. This one manages funny and heartwarming while still covering a range of subjects from soft-mystery to romance to politics. It’s just so well done, I can’t imagine why it wasn’t a sleeper.

    A lot of the romantic comedies I like are very old and require some suspension in disbelief. I know you don’t like physical comedy much and one of my favorite movies only has a touch of it, but I literally hurt my stomach laughing when I watch American Dreamer – starring Tom Conti and JoBeth Williams. And Barefoot in the Park with Jane Fond and Robert Redford.

    So many of my favorites are screwball comedies from the thirties and forties. I was as surprise by Definitely, Maybe as I was by my absolute love for it.

    You’ve already reviewed a lot of my other favorites: Moonstruck, Every Cary Grant movie ever made, Kitty, Sunday in New York (oh gawd how I love that one).

    I think, were I to recommend anything, it would be Barefoot in the Park and McClintock. Neither come close to realism, and both have a lot (a LOT) of issues with misogyn (what else is new for old movies?), but to feel good and make you laugh, I love them. I just have to leave my feminism at the door.

    Thanks again, btw, for your film reviews. It’s nice to see a site branch out into that :).

  12. dri
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 08:21:40

    @Dani Alexander: I totally second that Barefoot In The Park rec. Jane Fonda is SOOOO gorgeous in it — when is she not gorgeous though, really? But her hair, omg! — and the relationship was indeed so refreshingly honest and a little angsty. One of the loveliest endings I’ve ever seen. Gaaww Redford.

  13. Tuere
    Jan 14, 2012 @ 13:47:07

    Yes!! I accidentally happened upon this movie myself and was pleasantly delighted. In fact, having never read Jane Eyre, my interest was immediately piqued. I was glad to have read it after the fact. I LOVE when movies inspire other stories and vice versa. You’ve probably already seen it, but The Jane Austen Book Club was another enjoyable film :)

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