While Definitely, Maybe will most likely be regarded as this year’s quintessential Valentine’s Day movie, it is much more than that. It ultimately provides the audience with a unique and honest portrayal of a young man’s foray into the world of broken hearts, failed relationships and attempted marriages.
Creative (for a romance movie) in its semi-simplistic, non-linear plot line, the story also succeeds as a mystery; it leaves the viewer constantly guessing as to who the lead character’s mysterious wife may be.
Although Adam Brook’s film is not a masterpiece by any means of the imagination, it is much better than most of the other schlock spat out by Hollywood this year (Meet the Spartans), and as such it should be recognized for its ingenuity and avoidance of becoming part of the tired retread of sequels and garbage that plague today’s film market.
The film begins with Will Hayes, played with perfect comic timing and charming wit by Ryan Reynolds, getting served with a divorce while at work. Although already separated from his wife, this unfortunate circumstance sparks his daughter’s (Abigail Breslin) interest in how Will met her mother. Will, initially reluctant to tell the story, caves to his daughter’s sincere curiosity, but only does so on the condition that he change all the names of his three major girlfriends, making each of them a possible ex-wife. What follows is a series of flashbacks with narration from Will as he recounts the hardships encountered upon moving to New York to work on Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign.
Elizabeth Banks plays Will’s college sweetheart “Emily,” who, somewhat hesitant to let him go to New York, has little further appearance in the film after she turns down his marriage proposal. Several years later, Will’s next relationship with an aspiring journalist “Summer,” played with a coy yet cold attractiveness by Rachel Weisz, progresses quickly. However, in a manner that parallels the events with Emily, things abruptly turn sour with Summer, and she unknowingly foils his plans for marriage. Finally, Will realizes his crush on long-time friend “April,” portrayed innocently by Isla Fisher. Only he’s too late; she seems to have found a new boyfriend, and her interest in Will has faded. However, unexpectedly one of these three of Will’s loves returns and a relationship that was once lost is rekindled.
The entire plot underscores Will’s naïve pursuit of marriage, while at the same time helps to antagonize the character so much so that he eventually realizes his true love and sets out to right his wrongs.
The film largely succeeds due to the honest and heart-warming performance from its lead actor, Ryan Reynolds. He convincingly tackles the dramatic situations in the film, while at the same time provides a significant source of the comic relief. Reynolds has always shown extreme versatility in his films, and while the character of Will Hayes is not an unusual role for Reynolds, the actor brings a sense of understanding and honesty to the character, allowing each audience member to relate.
Reynolds is a budding new actor of our generation, and he is beginning to get the credit and roles he deserves. From his humble beginnings in the sitcom Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place, this actor has grown, accepting more mature roles. He is bound to have many more strong performances to come. Reynolds is aided by strong performances from his supporting female cast. His interactions with Breslin seem authentic, and while the script has her speaking lines for a character that should be older, she does so with a natural ease, slightly offsetting the awkwardness such writing instills. Each of Will’s love interests are portrayed with subtle differences by the three lead actresses; however, they all have a genuine chemistry with Reynolds that gives much more credibility to their relationships. Further support comes from Kevin Kline as Summer’s professor, a crude alcoholic writer who provides additional bits of comic ingenuity.
The direction of the film is generic, yet despite the subjective narration and storytelling given by Will, it succeeds in somewhat objectively portraying the events on screen. And while the rating I’ve given it (4 out of 5 stars) may seem absurdly high, give the film a chance before brushing it away as another typical “chick flick.” Given the terrible romantic films that generally grace the cinemas during Valentine’s Day, you can’t do much better than Definitely, Maybe.