Sometimes I get to thinking that the whole romantic comedy genre could use a good shake-up to get out of the hole that movies like Fool’s Gold keep digging the genre into. Rom-coms with smart, secure yet interesting female characters would be one way to do this. Stories with a likable male protagonist who’s neither misogynistic nor a total weenie would be another good way. Definitely, Maybe actually manages to achieve both these things, and it’s truly a relief to see.
Somehow, the movie hits a sweet balance between completely adorable and realistic. There are a few cheesy moments and some genuinely funny parts, but the real reason the movie succeeds is due to the well-drawn, well-developed characters, each of whom I found myself liking and rooting for. Ryan Reynolds charmingly plays Will, whose young daughter Maya (Abigail Breslin) is struggling to come to terms with her parents’ divorce. She begs her father to tell her the story of his relationship with his mother: why they fell in love, etc. Reluctant, Will decides instead to tell her the stories of three women from his past, and Maya can guess which one ended up being her mother.
This sets up a fun storytelling structure: alternating between Will’s sweet, funny tales of romance — though some of them are so true-to-life it makes me cringe — we come back to little Maya and her spunky commentary. Sure, sometimes she’s sort of annoying, but it’s also cute and refreshing to get her take on things. She contemplates which of these three different women could be her mother: the kind, gentle Emily (Elizabeth Banks), the sassy and fun-loving April (Isla Fischer) or the fiercely independent and intellectual Summer (Rachel Weisz). There's more to the movie than just this, though, so
There are lots of good things about this movie. The performances are engaging and pretty much everyone in this movie is completely adorable. The relationship between father and daughter is incredibly endearing — as are the threads of sweet father-daughter relationships throughout the film — and the music is well-placed. In particular, the opening title sequence is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time: Will leaves work to pick up Maya at school and chooses a song on his iPod to enjoy during the walk. As we amble down the streets of Manhattan to the tune of "Everyday People" by Sly and the Family Stone we watch the kaleidescope of New York life drift by a relaxed Will. My main complaint is that the movie feels long and drags in parts, though I also admit that it might be hard to get the full story with a shorter film.
Perhaps those terribly cheesy and poorly written rom-coms like Fool's Gold have lowered my standards for this genre, but I enjoyed the film immensely. It’s not the best movie you'll ever see, but as a heartwarming romance, it easily and satisfyingly hits its mark. Here's hoping other rom-coms take some cues from Definitely, Maybe.
To see the trailer and clips from Definitely, Maybe, along with cast interviews, check out movies.ivillage.com.