Perhaps my least favorite genre of films is the romantic comedy. Not simply because they are primarily "chick flicks", but because they are just so similar to each other. I recall watching 27 Dresses with my girlfriend and I was able to figure out the ending as the opening scene began. In all my years, I have never seen a romantic comedy that had an unexpected ending...until now. Definitely, Maybe is the freshest romantic comedy to hit cinemas in a long, long time. It is the touching and remarkably engaging story of Will Hayes (Ryan Reynolds), who is suffering a divorce while caring for his young daughter Maya (Abigail Breslin). As Will tries to put Maya to bed, she relentlessly inquires to hear the story of how he met her mother. Will reluctantly agrees, and the real movie begins. A young Will Hayes just arrived in New York in 1992 to support Presidential candidate Bill Clinton in the upcoming election. Momentarily leaving his college sweetheart Emily (Elizabeth Banks) in Wisconsin, Will is left susceptible to the dangerous possibility of falling for other women in his new surrounding. One of those women is the beautiful copy machine girl April (Isla Fisher), whom Will becomes very good friends. The two share many comical encounters that are very easy to watch. The other woman testing Will's strength is up and coming journalist Summer Hartley (Rachel Weisz), who is also currently dating world famous journalist Hampton Roth (Kevin Kline), a man of 60 that still likes 'em young. It is also very enticing to learn that Summer possibly shared a romantic encounter with Will's Emily during their college days. With all the characters in place, Maya and the rest of us are left wondering, "who does he end up with?". That, my friends, is why Definitely, Maybe is a terrific film.
Definitely, Maybe was directed and written by Adam Brooks, who also wrote the romantic sports comedy Wimbledon. Coincidentally, that was also one of the very few romantic comedies I actually enjoyed, despite it's predictability. What Brooks did with Definitely, Maybe was take a film genre and set a new standard for it. His writing neglected the cliche conventions of writing a romantic film, and instead twisted it with a mystery theme. With this unique and original plot, the viewer is left with only speculations as to how it will end. Much like I always do with these types of films, I guessed how it would end at the midway point. For the first time ever, I was wrong. Brooks did a superb job keeping me guessing. Whenever I thought I had it figured out, he would throw another curveball. The three woman that swirled through Will's life and time and again knocked him down actually managed to make me feel sorry for the main character. I was able to see his dejection and I was able to feel the love that he felt for all 3 of these women at one time or another. I was also very surprised to find myself willingly engaging in the story, eager to see what would happen next. My first viewing of Definitely, Maybe was with 2 friends, both of which are heterosexual males like myself. I had no problem watching this movie with them because I heard it was good and I wanted to see it, regardless of who I was with. But what shocked me was that one of my friends, who was very unhappy with the idea of watching this film without girls around, was actually bothered by the fact that we had to shut it off midway (we had to go somewhere). Even he was interested in how it ended. That just goes to show you that guys, you don't need to have a girl present to watch this film. It is genuinely good.
With a romantic comedy, who always have to be sure you have good actors to make everything feel authentic. If you go and watch a film like Good Luck Chuck, seeing Dane Cook flirt with Jessica Alba is almost as enjoyable as a trip to the dentist's office (no offense to any dentist's out there). In Definitely, Maybe, every actor did their part to make sure every moment was legitimate. Ryan Reynolds is known to be a very charismatic actor. Even in lesser efforts such as Blade: Trinity, Reynolds always brings charm to his characters. Will Hayes is no different. A delightful and relatable character, audiences will enjoy watching his life unfold and actually root for his happiness. Reynolds also consistently interacts with the films 4 leading ladies believably. Talking to his daughter, played by Breslin, you feel a warmhearted relationship between the two that you could find between a loving father and his child. His heartache is unforgettable as he repeatedly loses those closest to him. Reynolds is also blessed with a wonderful supporting cast, specifically Isla Fisher. I remember in my review of Wedding Crashers I said that Fisher had a very promising career ahead of her and my opinion has not changed. Consistently entertaining and thoroughly amusing, Fisher is a pleasure to watch in any film (except Hot Rod which sucked and horribly underutilized her ability). Elizabeth Banks and Rachel Weisz both put in strong performances, but the only other noteworthy performance from the female cast was the young Abigail Breslin. Although she was nominated for her role in the overrated Little Miss Sunshine, I actually thought she was better in this film. Still not worthy of a nomination, but she showed real talent in this film. (I still don't understand how she was nominated. She wasn't even that good. WHAT DID I MISS!?). Kevin Kline also contributes a very funny effort as the sexagenarian that has a taste for younger women.
When it all boils down, there is really one thing that I am looking for in a romantic comedy, and that is believability. I do not want to watch actors make googly eyes at each other. I want to see people convincing me that their is a such thing as true love. Definitely, Maybe is the only romantic comedy I have ever seen that was both realistic and genuinely entertaining. Not completely without the romance cliches, Definitely, Maybe is not perfect, but is certainly a breath of fresh air for a stupid movie genre. My rating (7/10)