If guys' harshest punishment this Valentine's Day is being dragged to see Definitely, Maybe, they're getting off pretty easy, thanks in large part to Ryan Reynolds.
If Will Hayes (Ryan Reynolds) didn't have such a smart, intuitive and inquisitive young daughter (Abigail Breslin), there might've been no Definitely, Maybe. It is she who demands the unabridged story of who her mother is and how she met Will, a story that dates all the way back to 1992 and involves a trio of women. It begins as a classic bolting-for-the-big-city tale when Will accepts a job on the Bill Clinton campaign in Manhattan, leaving behind his college sweetheart Emily (Elizabeth Banks) in Madison, Wisconsin. Slowly but surely, Will falls for the city and two of its women in particular: Summer (Rachel Weisz), Emily's scholarly college friend who is emotionally and romantically unavailable and thus irresistible to Will, and April (Isla Fisher), an edgy, apolitical copy girl who works with Will at the Clinton campaign office. So begins Will's three-woman conundrum, which isn't necessarily solved by the time he finishes telling his daughter the story.
Is there a more consistently surprising actor out there than Ryan Reynolds? Once known only for his sophomoric comedies that appealed to sophomoric viewers, the actor has drastically changed his career for the better recently. He's done horror (The Amityville Horror) and action (Smokin' Aces) in the past couple years, and now his most surprising genre: romantic comedy. In Reynolds' best performance to date, he is natural, charismatic (duh!) and clearly capable of shedding his sarcasm for the sake of a more grown-up, even vulnerable, character. Without a doubt, he is leading-man material. As for the three actresses who play Reynolds' love interests, they can pretty much do no wrong. Fisher (Wedding Crashers), especially, shines as multi-layered, complicated NYC-girl-next-door April. Weisz, meanwhile, is a perfect fit (when is she not?) as the intellectual and slightly mischievous Summer, and Banks (Slither) again shows why she's pigeonholed in the girlfriend role--in a good way. In supporting roles, Kevin Kline and Derek Luke (Antwone Fisher) are hilarious and dead-on, respectively. And finally, Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine), in a small but crucial role, is infectiously energetic for such a tired, clichéd character.
If Definitely, Maybe does have a downfall or make a concession, it falls within writer-director Adam Brooks' (Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Wimbledon) screenplay. While the dialogue is unconventionally sharp for a romantic comedy, the story takes a hard turn towards predictability in the second half, undoing the inventiveness displayed early on. And the all-too-convenient fact that Will changes the names of the three women when he's telling his daughter the story, so she--and we--can't unlock the maternity mystery, is the ultimate gimmick. But as a director, Brooks, who has been working primarily as a screenwriter for over two decades, shows a lot of promise. The fact is, despite ending disappointingly, Definitely, Maybe is a refreshing, relatable antidote to most of today's rom-coms. And even though that's thanks partly to the strong performances, strong performances are often thanks partly to a solid director, like Brooks.
Hollywood.com rated this film 2 1/2 stars.