Definitely, Maybe

Writer-director Adam Brooks' "romantic mystery" uses a premise and a story structure suspiciously similar to that of the flashback-filled sitcom How I Met Your Mother, but it's a lot fresher and bit more sophisticated than the ordinary run of maudlin chick flicks and crude gross-out sex farces that now pass for romantic comedies. On the same day jaded...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Writer-director Adam Brooks' "romantic mystery" uses a premise and a story structure suspiciously similar to that of the flashback-filled sitcom How I Met Your Mother, but it's a lot fresher and bit more sophisticated than the ordinary run of maudlin chick flicks and crude gross-out sex farces that now pass for romantic comedies.

On the same day jaded Manhattan ad exec Will Hayes (Ryan Reynolds) receives the divorce papers from his wife's lawyer, his 10-year-old daughter, Maya (Abigail Breslin), has had her first sex-ed class at school, and is bursting with questions: Why do people have sexual intercourse if they don't want a baby? Did you have sex with anyone other than Mom? How did you meet Mom anyway, and were you ever in love with anyone else? Will finally agrees to tell Maya the whole story of how he met and fell in love with her mother, but he's going to change a few key details, like peoples' names; it'll be up to Maya (and the audience) to figure out which of the three major "suspects" Will will eventually marry. Flashback to 1992: Will, a young, politically idealistic University of Wisconsin graduate says goodbye to his college sweetheart, Emily (Elizabeth Banks), and heads to New York City, where he'll be working on former Arkansas governor Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign. In her gut, Emily knows Will won't be coming back. Will moves into a room at the New Yorker Hotel with campaign coworker Russell (Derek Luke) and soon befriends bohemian office assistant April Hoffman (Isla Fischer), an apolitical cynic who, despite the obvious differences, begins to nurse a crush on Will. Will, meanwhile, meets and falls in love with aspiring journalist Summer Hartley (Rachel Weisz), Emily's friend and, Will begins to suspect, possible lover, from an adventurous English year abroad. Summer, however, is living with her ex-professor, respected political writer Hampton Roth (Kevin Kline), a man old enough to be her grandfather, but that doesn't stop her from planting a kiss on Will's lips when they first meet. All in the name of journalistic curiosity, of course.

Who will Will choose? Or, more to the point in a comedy that actually features full-blooded women with minds and characters of their own, who will choose Will? The years pass and even though no one visibly ages, their characters do: As the initial promise of the Clinton presidency gives way to sordid scandal, Will grows less idealistic, and in a film already colored by the very real possibility that all will end in divorce regardless of whom Will marries, the film acquires a richer, mellower flavor than one might expect. While not yet exactly in the league of, say, Michael Ritchie, Mike Nichols or even Nora Ephron, Brooks achieves something closer to those movies' sparkling brand of politically thoughtful comedies than THE HEARTBREAK KID remake or P.S. I LOVE YOU. Maya's interjections are cute for a little while and tiresome for the most part, and her continuing presence as a narrative device soon highlights one of the major flaws in the cute but contrived setup: Maya would have to know absolutely nothing about her mother's past — where she went to school, whether she ever had a job, where she was born — for her not to know which of the three "suspects" wound up marrying her father.

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