When the hour gets late and I find myself growing tired while screening a film, romantic dramas are not typically the type of film I will force myself to stay awake and finish to find out what happens at the end of the film. There is always another day and modern home theater devices do such a wonderful job of bookmarking where a viewer stops and restarting from exactly that point in the film. Such was not the case with "Definitely, Maybe." I was having a long day and decided I needed to watch a relatively short comedy to just find a little cheer in the day. I popped in "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle," as I have never seen the film and I was curious. I enjoyed the little comedy and found myself not tired enough to call it a night. "Definitely, Maybe" had been backed up a couple days in the review queue, so I figured I might as well start to watch it and finish it the next day.
At about the fifty minute mark in the film, the laws of nature started to catch up to me and I began to get tired. It was almost 1:30am and having to get up at 6:30am for work makes staying up much later a rough proposition. However, I found myself quite interested in the unorthodox romantic film "Definitely, Maybe" and wanted to find out who little girl Maya Hayes' (Abigail Breslin) mommy was. As her father Will (Ryan Reynolds) told her the story of his previous loves Emily (Elizabeth Banks), Summer (Rachel Weisz) and April (Isla Fisher) and how he had fallen in love with each of them to answer the little girl's question of how her father fell in love with her mother; I found myself captivated. I was damn tired, but I definitely did not want to wait eighteen hours or so to discover the ending.
In the film, Will has received divorce papers from his wife. He is separated from her, but the news of the divorce seems disheartening to Will. He picks his daughter Maya up from school twice a week and keeps her for the night. On the night in which he receives his legal papers to sign and finalize the divorce, Maya asks her father to tell her the story of how he fell in love with her mother. Maya doesn't want to see her parents apart and after discovering about the birds and the bees at her school, she is very curious as to how her parents met, fell in love and is hoping that perhaps having her father tell her the story will ignite a spark that might keep her parents together. Will agrees to tell her the story, but he tells his daughter that he will keep the women's names different so she must guess which woman is her mother.
Three women have been part of Will's life in the past before and the film takes place mostly in flashback, with a few scenes showing Will and Maya talking about the story. There is the obligatory happy ending that takes place after Will's story ends and lets Maya learn the story of her mother and the woman that Will has always loved. The first woman is his college sweetheart Emily. The relationship between Will and Emily seemed almost picture perfect until Will took a position in Bill Clinton's presidential campaign and he was forced to move to New York City to work on the campaign. Emily feels that living in the big city will change the small town boy and she is correct in her assumption. Distance and time apart has effects on people and this first love ends without marriage.
The second woman that gains Will's heart is Emily's former roommate Summer Hartley, who is a talented writer, but in love with college professor Hampton Roth (Kevin Kline). Emily had given Will a package to drop off, but Will and his roommate Russell (Derek Luke) opened the brown-wrapped package to discover a diary that detailed romantic occurrences between Summer and Emily. Will arrives to drop the diary off, but finds Hampton and believes the older man to be Summer's father. They drink heavily and Will is then kissed by the curious Summer. With each finding romantic feelings for the other, Will and Summer eventually engage in a very serious relationship, but her job as a journalist and Will's working as a campaign manager class and Summer too does not become the wife of Will.
The third and final woman introduced to Maya as a possible mother is April. She works as the copy girl for Clinton's campaign and her and Will quickly find themselves to be idealistic rivals who cannot seem to agree on anything. They, however, find a friendship and when April is stood up by her boyfriend on her birthday, Will becomes a proxy date. He practices his proposal for Emily on April and it moves her to respond ‘definitely, maybe.' Later in the evening, they share a kiss, but quickly distance themselves from each other. Through the course of Will's story he and April share a close and deep friendship and each shows romantic feelings for the other, but their timing is never quite right and when Will finally declares his love for her, the results are disastrous.
Up until a party that Summer throws years after Will had broken up with each of the women, the film keeps both Maya and the audience guessing as to whom the little girl's mother is and which woman ultimately married Will. There are possibilities that either Emily, Summer or April is Will's soon-to-be ex-wife, but the connection as to whom he married is not provided in his story until one of the three ladies and Will reconcile and a small mention of the woman's mannerisms reveals to Maya which one is her mother. However, upon discovering the identity of her mother in Will's story and learning the whole history of her father's loves, Maya finds that her father does not belong with her mother, but one of the other girls in his story.
When everything is revealed, I had already a good idea of which woman was the ideal partner for Will and which woman his heart truly belonged to. I wasn't sure of which of the three was Maya's mother and that mystery kept me engaged in the story and I was also curious as to why Will and the lady in question were getting divorced. The film masterfully revealed the identity of his ex-wife, but reasons as to why the marriage has dissolved was never quite uncovered. One could assume that it was because Will's heart was elsewhere and I'm going to stick with that notion. The provided wrap-up to the story allowed the film to end on a very happy note instead of having poor Will having his heart torn out by a woman he had loved and married.
Earlier in this review I called the film ‘unorthodox.' It is far more dramatic than it is humorous and while it could be labeled as a romantic comedy, it is a very dramatic and well-told story. Where it becomes unorthodox is the manner in which the story is told. "Definitely, Maybe" presents itself as a story of love lost and the majority of the events occur in flashback. Being a huge fan of television's "Lost," I have learned to absolutely love this manner of storytelling where an end result is given, but flashbacks hold clues as to how things played out the way they did. In this case, we know that Will was in love and much of the film gives the impression that the love was entirely in the past. It could have went either way and had Will find love again or leave him heartbroken and remained entertaining, but the payoff of Will discovering love through the telling of his past was nicely done.
Writer/director Adam Brooks has pieced together a nice little dramatic film and I must admit that I enjoyed my two hours of time watching "Definitely, Maybe." This is not an Academy Award winning type film, but it is a very good diversion for either a rainy day or one of those hot summer nights when it is just too hot to be outside. The directing, writing, acting and story are all very good and while I hesitated into sitting down and watching this Ryan Reynolds film, it was quite enjoyable and I have zero problem with recommending this to others. This would be a perfect date movie and a very guy-friendly ‘chick flick' that is relatively easy to sit through.
"Definitely, Maybe" is presented in anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen. The film provides a wonderful view of New York City and exhibits strong detail and coloring. During one of the supplements, Ryan Reynolds compares the film to a comic book and the film does provide scene transitions in a manner reminiscent of a comic book and this was one of the visual elements I remember most from the film. The various locations look very good and the strong level of detail of the disc allows many miniscule elements to be seen while watching the film. The coloring and skin hues are quite accurate and natural looking. Source materials were clean and no flaws were visible while watching the film. Black levels and shadow detail are good. There is a little grain and lack of detail during some of the darker moments, but that is my only real gripe with the transfer.
"Definitely, Maybe" comes to DVD with English, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes. This is a romantic film and these types of film typically lack a deep and involving soundtrack. "Definitely, Maybe" is no exception to this rule and while I would have enjoyed a more atmospheric representation of the Big Apple, I can't say the film didn't meet my expectations. Dialogue is the absolute most important aspect of the transfer and every spoken word was easily intelligible. The musical score by Clint Mansell adds some warmth to the transfer, but it too is mainly kept in the front channels. The .1 LFE channel is used some, as are the rear surrounds, but the left, right and center speakers handle the vast majority of the work. The transfer is clean, but it just doesn't push the bounds very far.
A few features are included with the DVD release of "Definitely, Maybe." The disc boots with a theatrical trailer for "Mamma Mia!" and two clips for current DVD releases from Universal. Some Deleted Scenes (5:42) are thrown in and the first entry on the "Special Features" menu. The scenes begin with a nice moment between Will and April that pokes fun at the MPAA. The deleted scenes were worth checking out. Creating a Romance (12:30) is a promotional little bit about the making of the film. The packaging and the DVD go a long way to let the viewer know that it is ‘brought to you by Volkswagen." You don't get too much more promotional than that. The Changing times of Definitely, Maybe (5:09) is a brief look that looks at the changing years between 1992 and 2008; the years the film takes place between. Finally, a Feature Commentary with Director Adam Brooks and Star Ryan Reynolds is a nice little commentary where the star and director discuss the film and reminisce on their work on the film.
I enjoyed "Definitely, Maybe" a good bit and felt this dramatic romance film contained a nice amount of humor, heart and compassion. This is a very entertaining movie that is well written, well directed and the acting of Ryan Reynolds, the young Abigail Breslin and the remainder of the cast is very good. The DVD release combines fairly good set of visuals with an average sounding mix. The film looks good, but the sound is right in line with the typical pedestrian soundtracks of your average romantic dromedy. The bonus materials cannot compare with a full-blown special edition, but I'm always happy when a ‘basic' release comes equipped with a few nice bonus materials. I won't call this the perfect ‘chick flick' that is guy-friendly, but it is definitely one of the better ones and it comes on a fairly good DVD.