Romantic comedies are a tough genre. For every solid rom-com, there are at least two or three that provide neither romance nor comedy. I am extremely pleased to report that Adam Brooks’ new film DEFINITELY, MAYBE is one of the best romantic comedies in the last few years. It takes a wonderful conceit and never turns it into anything less than surprising, unpredictable, and satisfying. It’s also funny, sexy, smart, and stylish without ever being self-conscious. It’s not a film that’s going to win awards and it doesn’t re-invent the wheel, but every once in a while, a movie like this displays a certain level of wit, charm, and creativity that sets it apart from the pack. It also helps when you have a terrific cast, anchored by up and coming star Ryan Reynolds, who has been threatening to bust out onto the leading man scene for the last few years.
Reynolds is Will Hayes, a New York ad-exec who is also the father of a precociously cute little girl named Maya (the lovely Abigail Breslin). One day, after getting her first sex-ed lesson at school, Maya starts quizzing her dad about her mom and the other women that he dated before he became a father. Already partially disturbed by his daughter’s new-found knowledge of the word penis and vagina, Will is a little hesitant to fill his daughter’s head with sexy exploits. What he does is pretty clever: he spins the fanciful yet true story of how he met Maya’s mother and incorporates details from the other relationships he got into with the other ladies he was dating around that time. He switches up the names of the ladies, played with charm and ease by Rachel Weisz, Isla Fisher, and Elizabeth Banks. Who is Maya’s mom? Who does Will really love? Who is the right woman (if any of them) for him? Another element that elevates DEFINITLEY, MAYBE is that at the start of the film, the audience is told that Will is about to go through a divorce; a whiff of melancholy settles in over portions of the movie reminding us that not every story has a happy ending. And short of me spoiling this very enjoyable movie, all I’ll say is that the ending is perfect, satisfying, and exactly as it should be.
Adam Brooks is a filmmaker who is new to me. His past credits include writing the awful BRIDGET JONES sequel, the weak rom-com WIMBELDON, and Jonathan Demme’s much hyped failure BELOVED. Here, working from his original screenplay and displaying a confident directorial touch, Brooks weaves a complicated story and elicits great work from his appealing cast. More often than not, actors in these type of films never really form any sort of tangible chemistry, whether it is sexual or emotional, with their co-stars. Here, Reynolds clicks with all three actresses, which keeps the audience guessing as to who the perfect woman for him really is. The female stand out is Fisher, who after stealing scenes from everyone in WEDDING CRASHERS as the feisty, clingy red-headed vixen to Vince Vaughn’s motor-mouth lout, is really ready for major stardom. Plucky, sassy, and straight up sexy, she’s got star quality written all over her. Banks is her usual cute, effortless self and Weisz lends the film an air of class. Also, look for Kevin Kline in a too brief cameo as a hard-drinking professor/author; he’s hysterical. DEFINITLEY, MAYBE might have benefited from some tighter editing in its middle section and a few scenes of physical comedy don’t feel exactly right, but these are minor quibbles. This is a fun, smart, and engaging film that will delight anyone who encounters it. I’d put it right up there with WAITRESS, IN HER SHOES, and THE BREAK-UP as one of the best romantic comedies of the decade.