An unusually soulful and appealing romantic comedy, Definitely, Maybe is the perfect antidote to the raucous lowbrow vulgarity that has come to define the genre in the 21st century. There is none of the wild profanity or bad taste humour of the Farrelly brothers or Judd Apatow. Instead, the film offers a charming New York love story filled with believable situations and a thoroughly likable cast.
Older audiences should respond to its old-fashioned sophistication whilst a breakthrough performance from leading man Ryan Reynolds could also attract a younger crowd. Strong reviews and positive word of mouth will make this a slow-burner with a healthy afterlife. The February release in the US and UK is also likely to make Definitely, Maybe an ideal date movie for Valentine audiences
Writer/director Adam Brooks was the screenwriter on lesser Working Title projects like Wimbledon (2004) and contrived sequel Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason (2004). Definitely, Maybe represents a major career advance in the quality of the script and the smoothness of the execution and underlines Working Title's reputation as the home of beguiling upmarket romantic comedies
Versatile leading man Ryan Reynolds has also paid his dues down the years but Definitely, Maybe offers such a strong showcase for his movie star good looks and winning way with comedy that it could be the film that finally propels him to A-list bankability. Reynolds effectively underplays his role as William Hayes, an advertising executive on the brink of divorce. It is his worldly wise 8 year-old daughter Maya (Abigail Breslin) who asks him to tell her the true story of how he met her mother and the reasons their love has not endured.
That's the excuse for a complex but believable account of Hayes romantic travails and the succession of right people/wrong time moments that have characterised his relationships. Changing the names to protect the innocent and prolong the suspense for Maya, Hayes reflects on his life over the past fifteen years as he left college sweetheart Emily (Elizabeth Banks) to work for the Clinton Presidential campaign in New York. Aspiring journalist Summer (Rachel Weisz) and free spirit April (Isla Fisher) are the significant other women in his life.
Told in flashback with random interruptions from Maya, Definitely, Maybe unfolds with confidence and solid craftmanship. The sounds and fashions of the 1990s are never laboured and the characters have a dry wit that emerges naturally rather than giving the impression of a gag writer lurking in everyone's closet. The film looks attractive and has a sweetness that never dissolves into cloying sentimentality. It is also extremely well cast.
Little Miss Sunshine's Abigail Breslin is a delight as Maya and Kevin Kline offers some enjoyable interludes as a feisty, cavalier author who challenges Hayes nice guy naivety. Rachel Weisz, Isla Fisher and especially Elizabeth Banks all leave you wishing the film had found a little more space to delve into the aspects of their lives that we never see.
There is even a modest sense of underlying melancholy about a generation whose hopes of change were raised and dashed by the Clinton years and their aftermath although any wider resonance is something the film carries very lightly. Definitely, Maybe is quite happy to settle for being a funny, touching romantic comedy and audiences are unlike to feel shortchanged.
Working Title Films