‘Definitely, Maybe’ a romantic charmer definitely worth seeing

by Bill Wine
Posted 12/11/20

Each week, veteran film critic Bill Wine will look back at an important film that is worth watching, either for the first time or again.

The universal desire of children to learn the details of …

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‘Definitely, Maybe’ a romantic charmer definitely worth seeing

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Each week, veteran film critic Bill Wine will look back at an important film that is worth watching, either for the first time or again.

The universal desire of children to learn the details of how their parents met provides a bouncy springboard for this smart, winning romcom.

Definitely, Maybe” – its bizarre title notwithstanding – is a charming 2008 romantic who-dun-it.

Ryan Reynolds plays Will Hayes, a thirtysomething political-consultant-turned-ad-exec whose 10-year-old daughter, Abigail Breslin, asks him how he met her mom and how they fell in love.

Also, more importantly, why they're now on the brink of divorce – one day away from signing the papers.

To answer her, in the form of a bedtime story, he tells her three tales of bachelorhood, each involving one of the significant romantic relationships of his past.

Sure, his premarital narratives are somewhat sanitized in the name of childhood innocence. But they're nonetheless essentially true, except that he purposely changes the names of the women under the microscope and neglects to tell her in advance which of them is actually her mother.

She has to figure that out for herself. As do we.

Is it college sweetheart Elizabeth Banks, whom he left behind in 1992, when he headed for New York City to work on Bill Clinton's presidential campaign?

Is it underachieving free spirit and confidant Isla Fisher, who works at Clinton headquarters without having any interest in politics?  

Or is it his old girlfriend's college roommate, aspiring journalist Rachel Weisz, who's having an affair with her political science professor, a curmudgeonly alcoholic played in a vivid extended cameo by Kevin Kline?

Writer-director Adam Brooks, employing voiceovers and flashbacks, keeps the political landscape in the near background, and interweaves the tales to keep us guessing.

He does occasionally push the cutesy button, but never for more than an instant.

The cast is uniformly likable: Reynolds, who's been at the mainstream-stardom doorstep ever since “Van Wilder” in 2002, is at his deadpan best, dialing down his usual snarkiness level, adding a dimension of reality, and putting his natural comic timing to good use.

Weisz, Fisher, and Banks as brunette Summer, redhead April, and blonde Emily comprise a fetching and skilled trifecta of romantic possibilities.

And talented little Breslin already has a well-deserved Oscar nomination on her resume for “Little Miss Sunshine”.

Is “Definitely, Maybe” worth seeing?

Definitely.

Will you want to see it again?

Maybe.

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