Definitely, Maybe

A charming two-generational romantic comedy, “Definitely, Maybe” is at least two notches above the U.S. norm of the genre. Refusing to play down to its audience, as most comedies do these days, “Definitely, Maybe” is a funny, touching romantic tale–and quite a suitable fare for Valentine's Day, no matter how old you are.

It's all-relative, and since the retro and formulaic Katherine Heigl vehicle, “27 Dresses,” is the latest American addition to the form, it's nice to observe that “Definitely Maybe” is at once more subtle both in its thematic concerns and tonal mood, that while it's romantic it is also meditative and even melancholy.

Known up until now for two mediocre pictures, “Wimbledon” and the sequel “Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason” (both in 2004), Adam Brooks makes a considerable leap forward as the writer-director of a comedy that's more sophisticated than the usual, aiming at mature viewers rather than teenagers, even though the saga co-stars child-actress Abigail Breslin (Oscar-nominated last year for “Little Miss Sunshine”).

Placed in the context of American romantic comedies of recent years, “Definitely, Maybe” lacks the foul lingo and profanity of the Judd Apathow brand (“40 Year Old Virgin, “Knocked Up,” “Super Bad”), and refreshingly, it's not about boys, or immature men, who need to get laid and grow up.

Perhaps more importantly, though the protag is a young middle-aged professional, nicely played by the handsome Ryan Reynolds, the film offers not one but three decent roles for women, played by the gifted and likable Rachel Weisz, Isla Fisher, and Elizabeth Banks.

Set in New York, the character-driven story centers on William Hayes (Reynolds), an advertising executive about to get a divorce. Upset and curious, his bright, precocious daughter Maya (Breslin) asks him to tell her the true story of how he had met her mother and to explain why the union has not endured; didn't they vow “Until Death Do Us Part”

The above serves as a promising premise for a rather realistic chronicle of Hayes and his romantic fables and foibles in terms of choosing and dating the right” woman at the right time. Says Dad Hayes: “I'm gonna tell you the story, but I'm not gonna tell you who your mom is. You have to figure that out for yourself. I'm gonna change all of the names and some of the facts.” The changes are done in order to protect anonymity, serve privacy-and, of course, increase a sense of suspense for his daughter, as well as us viewers.

Unfolding in flashbacks, the saga allows Hayes to reflect on his life over the past 15 years, right after leaving his college girlfriend Emily (Elizabeth Banks) to work for the 1992 Clinton Presidential campaign in New York. The other two significant women in the triangle are Summer (Rachel Weisz), an aspiring journalist, and the more liberal and free-spirited April (Isla Fisher).

The flashback structure is occasionally interrupted by questions and comments from Maya, allowing us to take the soulful journey with Hayesand reflect on our lives during the same period of time. Thirtysomething (which is Hayes' age) and fortysomething audiences will relate to this angle in a more personal and particular way than the twentysomething crowds, which were too young in the 1990s.

The three women represent types (but not stereotypes), each standing for a set of values, including their approach to politics. As Hayes attempts a gentler, kinder version of his story, Maya needs to guess the identity of her mother. Is she Emily, the dependable girl-next-door Is she his longtime best friend and confidante, the apolitical April Or is she the free-spirited by ambitious journalist Amber

How and why our parents had met and dated are universal concerns that most kids are curious about. (The 1985 comedy, “Back to the Future,” played nicely on this theme). As Maya puts together the pieces of her dad's mystery love story, she begins to understand what love is–and what it is not–namely, that love is never a simple or easy feeling.

The script makes sure to present the yarn as a two-way process: As Hayes tells his story, Maya helps him understand that it's definitely not too late to go back, maybe even find a happy ending

Cast:

Will Hayes: Ryan Reynolds
April: Isla Fisher
Maya Hayes: Abigail Breslin
Russell McCormack: Derek Luke
Emily: Elizabeth Banks
Summer Hartley: Rachel Weisz
Hampton Roth: Kevin Kline
Gareth: Adam Ferrara
Arthur Robredo: Nestor Serrano

Credits

Universal release of Working Title, StudioCanal
Screenwriter-director: Adam Brooks
Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner
Executive producers: Liza Chasin, Bobby Cohen
Co-executive producer: Kerry Orent
Camera: Florian Ballhaus
Production designer: Stephanie Carroll
Music: Clint Mansell
Costume designer: Gary Jones
Editor: Peter Teschner

Running time: 110 Minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13