Aug 7, 2009

[Movies] Dan in Real Life (2007)

Dan in Real LifeWhile I appreciate the kind of dead pan humor Steve Carell tends to favor in terms of movies and TV shows, I can't say I'm an outright fan. Oftentimes he tends to border on the obnoxious then goes all the way to the inane, but then that's modern humor for you. The witty comedic dialog of old has been lost to the more base realms of physical comedy and slapstick.

Then there comes that time in every comedic actor's life when he tries to cross genres and add some diversity to his acting. The most logical jump is the male lead in a romantic comedy and that sorta makes sense given they're already funny so it's just a matter of channeling that into making them charming.

I know, Steve Carell is not exactly the typical person you'd consider for the male lead in any movie where the role involves getting romantically involved with a member of the opposite sex, but then again things just click and sometimes it works a lot better than expected.

Dan in Real Life is an interesting comedy (or perhaps dramedy?) where Steve's character Dan is a lonely single father who ironically writes a newspaper column where he often talks about love, relationships and just getting through everyday life. Things change when he falls in love with a woman he encounters in a book store (as portrayed by Juliet Binoche). Naturally all can't go well since it turns out she's his brother's girlfriend and they're all together under one roof for the holidays.

The "Real Life" aspect of the film is certainly true enough - you really get that sense that this is a genuine family and their interactions are real and the little quirks and idiosyncrasies they get into all make the story more believable. I like the level of detail put into the character development and of course you can't fault Dianne West for doing what she does best - play a mother genuinely.

LOS ANGELES - OCTOBER 24:  Actors Dane Cook (L...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

The "chemistry" between Steven Carell and Juliet Binoche on screen was decently believable enough, although not overly compelling. Then again, it was a heck of a lot better than how it was between her and Dane Cook. Seriously.

The movie surprised me in terms of execution and how the story ended, which is saying a lot considering how most romantic comedies tend to become overly formulaic, employing the same cliches and plot devices that we've seen in hundreds of other such films time and time again. Peter Hedges did a pretty good job executing the script in a manner that made the whole movie seem, well, real. Plus the music really helped set the mood and made for a great experience as a whole.

Dan in Real Life gets 3.5 burned pancakes out of 5.


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