As rom-coms go, this one is actually romantic and funny
I generally never expect much from romantic comedies. There’s been a string of so-called rom-coms in the mold of Old School and The Wedding Crashers that maintain the humor and narrative by presenting 90 minutes of a dude and his friends acting like complete asses until the third act, when the love of a good woman turns his sorry act around (presumably so the female half of a date gets something out of the flick). Or something like Knocked Up, where the only purpose the female lead serves is to be a prop with tits as the dudes improv off of her.
Essentially, the rom-com game hasn’t been very romantic or comedic—just tired gags and a template dusty with predictability.
Definitely, Maybe looks like that within the first five minutes—it starts off with Van Wilder doing a voiceover, it clicks over to a classic track and then introduces the character’s precocious daughter. Egads. And then ….
And then Will Hayes (Ryan Reynolds) tells a bedtime story to his daughter Maya (played by Little Miss Sunshine herself, Abigail Breslin). Through a series of flashbacks (yet another bad sign) the ad exec on the eve of his divorce recounts the story of how he met the girl’s mother. It’s not just a story, but three: three stories of complicated women who enter his life over the course of the Clinton administration and the days before cell phones and reality television.
He’s not exactly a reliable narrator, and we’re never quite sure who he’ll end up settling with in the end. But the journey is clever and unpredictable and, well … romantic and funny.
Even more surprising is how Reynolds is coming into his own as a perfectly satisfying lead. Here, he’s charming and amusing without being reptilian or vacant, the big problem with actors of his generation. He’s matched more than ably by Elizabeth Banks, Rachel Weisz and Isla Fisher as the trio of potential lights of his life. Each one more than convinces us that she should be the one, despite logical sense that it probably wouldn’t be such a good idea in the long run. Like in life.
Of course, mileage may vary. It’s a comedy of dialogue and not the comedy of painful, social humiliation ("It’s funny ‘cause it’s real!") that seems to drive so many of its brethren these days. But then, if you’re not down with a precocious little girl theorizing about putting penises in vaginas, you might have a problem with this one.