Monday, November 19, 2007

Dan in Real Life

This movie started out rather promising, and I was excited going into it. It had a promising cast and premise. It seemed like it would be filled with the same sort of dark, almost funny desperation that makes Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach so special. Unfortunately, in his second movie, Peter Hedges creates a tale that seems to fall flat in a number of places.

Now this isn't a bad movie. It was actually pretty good, just not as good as it could have been. Steve Carell trades in his comedic shoes from the Office, and for a widowed single father (the titular Dan) with three daughters. He packs up his rebellious daughters and heads to his parents (Dianne Wiest and John Mahoney) for the week for a sort of reunion. He must deal with his egotistic brother, Mitch (Dane Cook) constantly berating his already fragile self-esteem. The one shinning spot is when he meets Marie (Juliette Binoche) in a bookstore. The setback? She is already in a relationship- with Mitch. And she's spending the weekend with them.

This has the potential to be either a brilliantly sad movie, or one ripe with unpleasantly awkward situations. Unfortunately, it takes the latter route through most of it- with Dan and Marie going to great lengths to hide their feelings, and their chance encounter. Even improbably lengths (i.e. a shower scene). These situations come across feeling more like gags than plot.

Steve Carell is wonderful in everything that he does. Even his comical characters have humanity behind him. In this instance, his depressing character still has a tint of lightheartedness. He throws in a little bit of that Michael Scott charm here and there (the "Put it on my tab" line from the trailers). Dane Cook seemed like an odd choice, but for the character I guess he does okay. His daughters, unfortunately seemed like over emotive charicatures of what teenage daughters really are. ("You murderer of love!"). Maybe this was accurate, and teenage girls are really that dramatic- I don't really know. The most disappointing part was the chemistry between Dan and Marie. I really didn't feel it. Carell does a much better job being an introspective one-man show, than interacting romantically with others.

For the most part the movie was straightforward and more enjoyable than not. I always enjoy watching Steve Carell do what he does. But there was really nothing special about the movie. A lot of the chemistry was not there, and it strayed into easy awkward situations a bit too much.


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