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Steve Carell
Juliette Binoche
Dane Cook
Norbert Leo Butz
John Mahoney
Dianne Wiest
Alison Pill
Brittany Robertson
Marlene Lawston
Dianne Wiest
Emily Blunt
John Mahoney.
Peter Hedges.
Running Time
99 minutes

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Dan In Real Life
Steve Carell does serious, in a funny kind of way

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Dan Burns (Carell) has a problem. Not only has he accidentally fallen in love with Marie (Binoche), his brother’s new girlfriend, but he now has to endure her company during the annual family get-together.

Dan In Real Life
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This is one of those unshowy but nuanced romantic comedies, set up around a cruel but enticingly embarrassing set of affairs, which used to star Steve Martin.

With the silver-haired comedian relegated to crummy Clouseau remakes, it features diminutive comedy giant Steve Carell doing a ‘sophisticated one’ between the big, zany numbers; a chance for him to tone down the childish mugging and wake up the inner adult.

Based upon co-screenwriter Pierce Gardner’s family gatherings on the cold sweep of the Atlantic coast, it posits a what-if-you-fall-for-your-brother’s-girlfriend? premise. Carell is Dan, an advice columnist (what irony!) and widower with three daughters at various stages of that really difficult phase. When he bumps into Marie (Juliette Binoche) in a bookshop, looking for “something human and funny that could sneak up and surprise you” - a working ethos for the movie - his luck may have changed. Then she crops up at his family’s latest shindig in the company of his younger, cuter but evidently shallower brother Mitch (Dane Cook). A comedy of agony ensues.

With touches of classic Woody Allen, Peter Hedges’ film honourably attempts to locate itself somewhere near real life. The point is that Dan loves his brother and wouldn’t do anything to hurt him, but can’t control the feelings that are swamping him. This is not romance by some Hollywood schematic, but a clumsy, painful, yearning trial by indignity. There is a touching contrast between Dan’s so-called mature affections and the puppy love coursing through his middle daughter Cara (Brittany Robertson) for the boyfriend he has banned: in the end, love makes children of everyone.

As much as Carell subtly evokes the stretched nerves of a man with nowhere to turn, it is Binoche who stands out. As her affection grows for the brother she isn’t dating, she is just enigmatic enough to keep the outcome in doubt. She gives one particular look of irritation, when Dan takes a dance with Emily Blunt, that is almost worth turning up for alone.

Sad then, that it must finally conform to movie logic. The longer the dilemma persists, the more the plot starts to show its hand, and what felt natural grows contrived. Tidy endings are not the stuff of life.

A small but sweetly formed comedy of romantic misfortune that can’t quite keep Hollywood at bay.

Reviewed by Ian Nathan

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Dan In Real Life
Empire Star Rating

Surprising Steve

Steve Carrell shocks in this rather good film. It's good to see that he can actually act without having to be a virgin. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Winningthefail at 13:04, 04 June 2013 | Report This Post

Nice, in a good way

It's official. Steve Carell is the new Jim Carrey; when he's a gurning clown he's ok, but turning the volume down brings out a really warm performance, enjoying scenes of charming chemistry with Binoche. If tidy endings were the stuff of life, I wouldn't need the movies. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by chief brody at 17:11, 28 April 2010 | Report This Post

Truly terrible

This film is truly terrible unless you fulfil ALL of the following criteria: 1) you are female; 2) you have no brain; 3) you adore sentimental saccharin plotlines; 4) you’re fond of seeing Juliette Binoche miscast and wearing a ridiculously unflattering wig. That is all. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jonnythan at 12:35, 02 August 2009 | Report This Post

Happy Endings

Empire says that Happy Endings are not the stuff of real life, well they can be and surely if they aren't then that is the reason why we would want our films to have them!!! I personally liked this film I found it to be sweet and it looks really nice (I know not much of a review!) I thought Carrell and Binoche were excellent and also some of the supporting cast!!! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Andybee76 at 13:03, 12 March 2009 | Report This Post


A watered down version of better films like The Family Stone or Home For The Holidays. Not bad, just not very original. Dane Cook is the deathnell for any movie but watch it for Emily Blunt's five minute appearance that blows everyone else off the screen. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Caster at 19:05, 13 November 2008 | Report This Post

RE: Dan In Real Life=Cliched Crapola

I can't believe people can give this movie 4 stars! It's worth two at THE MOST. It's cliched, formulaic and not funny. I could count the number of time I laughed on one hand without my thumb! Carell is pretty good especially when you consider what a cliched script he was given. The characters are stereotypes: The depressed widower, The teenage daughter in LOVE, The cute youngest daughter. The whole thing is 'Heartwarming' to the point of being nauseating and they've even man... More

Posted by Nimrods Son at 15:15, 17 June 2008 | Report This Post

Dan In Real Life

I enjoyed it, Carell and Binoche were both great, it was maybe a little bit too determined to be "indie and kooky" but Carell went a long way to redeem himself after the fucking dreadful Evan Almighty (although Get Smart looks like it'll be back to the shouting in the hope the audience will find it funny in the absence of a decent script blueprint) ... More

Posted by Indio at 21:19, 14 June 2008 | Report This Post

Steve Carell is BRILLIANT

I didnt think this was going to be a good film but I was surprized.I think some people would hate this film,like my friend,he didnt like it. The ending wasnt very great.It wasnt very funny but still very entertaining.And I liked Steve,s charachter ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by JohnPaul1996 at 21:36, 05 June 2008 | Report This Post


I would not recommend this movie it is a wast of time. Only a few funny parts and kind of borning. I give it 21/2 stars ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by largeball at 15:14, 06 May 2008 | Report This Post

Was I watching the same film?

This film was awful! I found myself laughing at the fact that i had paid to see the film rather than the on screen humor. There was no chemistry in any of the relationships and i couldn't have cared less about Dan himself! I would recommend consuming large amounts of alcohol to get the most out of this film. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by dja_list at 20:04, 17 February 2008 | Report This Post

Worth watching for the leads

Carell and Binoche are excellent as the two leads, forming a believable and touching relationship at the centre of the film. They earn the film an extra star: the extended family surrounding them does tend towards the typically American and sentimental in their behaviour (family sports, massed breakfasts, home-made talent shows, that sort of thing), and it's a tad too long. It's also one of those films where the central character is treated a little unfairly - Dan's single status essentially rel... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Davechoc at 22:20, 20 January 2008 | Report This Post


I think Empire have got this one about right.  It is simply a solid 3 star film.  Nothing special but if you are in the mood for a gentle family comedy then this is a better alternative to the likes of The Family Stone. Admittedly the beginning and the end are slightly predictable and a bit too "easy" but once the contrived setup is in place, there are laughs to be had and a few touching moments as well.  Having read the Empire review beforehand, I was on the look out for th... More

Posted by linleyr at 10:36, 15 January 2008 | Report This Post


Really enjoyed this film, a great way to kick of 2008.   Steve Carell is superb and very believable in his role as depressed widower Dan Burns, as is his love interest Anne-Marie (Juliette Binoche) and (surprisingly) his on-screen brother Dane Cook, who is also dating Anne-Marie.   The only drawback I can think of is that the likes of John Mahoney and Emily Blunt do not get as much screen time as they deserve.   Overall though, a funny, light-hearted family comedy. D... More

Posted by johndoe at 12:10, 14 January 2008 | Report This Post

Really enjoyed this film - was surprisingly funny and also cringeworthy in places particularly when Dan made everybody uncomfortable at the dinner table by going on about his brother's ex girlfriends!! The highlight was the pig song which had me in absolute stitches! The brother ending up with ruthie was a little bit predictable but didn't spoil an otherwise very good film. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by captain jack harknes at 10:23, 14 January 2008 | Report This Post

RE: Suprisingly funny movie

L: Wilbert L: 02PARSIM I am sorry but I have never, ever heard of a real family sitting together to do a crossword puzzle! pparently the family stuff is based on the writers own family life so while it may not be what your family do with their afternoons, it didn't strike me as odd. I liked the film but I think it kind of fell apart at the end. The way Dane Cooks character ends up was a pretty crap way out of the problems caused by his brother. Lazy writing. Yeah,... More

Posted by Timon at 10:19, 14 January 2008 | Report This Post

Dan In Real Life - Surprisingly good

A toned-down, restrained romantic comedy for adults is the pitch for Dan In Real Life, and for the most part, it achieves what it sets out to do. It strives for believability rather than super-dramatic movie moments, and subtle humour than laugh out loud scenes. Carell is on form, too, playing against type as the straight one in the family. It is worth the ticket price alone for Binoche ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by moviemaniac2 at 08:47, 14 January 2008 | Report This Post

RE: Suprisingly funny movie

L: 02PARSIM I am sorry but I have never, ever heard of a real family sitting together to do a crossword puzzle! pparently the family stuff is based on the writers own family life so while it may not be what your family do with their afternoons, it didn't strike me as odd. I liked the film but I think it kind of fell apart at the end. The way Dane Cooks character ends up was a pretty crap way out of the problems caused by his brother. Lazy writing. Also, if someone acted like... More

Posted by Wilbert at 23:11, 13 January 2008 | Report This Post

RE: Suprisingly funny movie

I really enjoyed it. Suprisingly touching and struck a chord for me in that I'm from a similarly large family, thought I'm not sure I'd hit on my brother's girl. Well, maybe......Juliette Binoche was certainly appealing.   A nice family film that's completely harmless with its predicable but touching ending.   4/5 ... More

Posted by Timon at 18:16, 13 January 2008 | Report This Post

Suprisingly funny movie

Dan in Real Life is a sweet, surprisingly believable, well acted drama/comedy which is full of highly memorable scenes and also in some way actually does touch you. This is the first movie since Knocked Up in which I actually cried with laughter, that was an impressive feat for a movie I had pretty much never heard of. Sure the movie does have its flaws, clichéd doesn't even cover the ending and at times the family does seem a bit unbelievable, I am sorry but I have never, ever heard of a r... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by 02PARSIM at 17:59, 13 January 2008 | Report This Post


ely fantastic, very very funny and heartwarming and heartbreaking too... Steve Carrell is absolutely brilliant, as are Juliette Binoche and finally Dane Cook is likeable. Able support too from John Mahoney and Dianne Wiest... a fantastic comedy drama well worth seeing 4.5/5 ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by DJ Rob C: Mark II! at 17:32, 13 January 2008 | Report This Post

Little slow paced but after that, the movie took off. Good family comedy with some real laughs 3/5 ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Starscream at 16:05, 13 January 2008 | Report This Post

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