The evening before Will Hayes (Reynolds) signs his divorce papers, his eight year-old daughter Maya (Breslin) asks how he met her mother. To explain the complex situation, Will tells her about the three women in his life, changing the names and letting Maya guess which one is Mum...
Working title, a stable built on romantic comedies, may have had a few wobblers in the genre recently (Wimbledon anyone? Anyone at all?), but they’re out to reclaim their crown. Definitely, Maybe marks a step back from the chaos of Love Actually’s myriad plot threads, opting instead for a straightforward, well-crafted script played out by an excellent ensemble (which runs deeper than top billing - Kevin Kline, take a bow). It’s funny enough not to be soppy, but with enough heart to be touching when it counts.
With few notable credits as director, it’s slightly surprising to find screenwriter Adam Brooks, co-writer of Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason and Wimbledon, so assured behind the camera. Maybe it’s the undiluted vision but, beyond a superfluous voiceover and an odd musical interlude over the opening credits, there’s barely a trace of the problems that beleaguered his previous Working Title efforts.
His primary strength is casting - never more so than in his leading man. Empire has often declared Ryan Reynolds to be a performer with a rare combination of charm, a gift for comedy, and outright, unfair good looks. He’s been repeatedly saddled with shoddy material, but this is the one: if there’s any justice, he’ll now be firmly on the A-list where he belongs.
Like most good ideas, Definitely, Maybe is simple: take those familiar beats in life and relationships, and explain them to a kid. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the kid is Little Miss Sunshine. Abigail Breslin is the kind of adorable moppet who knows she doesn’t have to act too much and, though she may be growing up, she applies the same sweetness and naivety that bagged her an Oscar nod last year.
If there’s a fault, it’s an imbalance of the attention given to the three women in Will’s life - college sweetheart Emily (Elizabeth Banks), free spirit April (Isla Fisher), and ambitious intellectual Summer (Rachel Weisz). All three play beautifully, but they’re not given adequate screentime, which soon reveals where the story is taking us. That is, however, a minor complaint, and in an experience so capably handled, it seems mean to complain.
Sweet, funny, simple, entertaining everything a good rom-com should be. Definitely...