Dan in Real Life directed by Peter Hedges
Starring – Steve Carell, Juliette Binoche and Dane Cook
Meet Dan (Steve Carell), advice columnist, father of three and widower. With tensions already flaring between his daughters and their opinions of his parenting, the four head to an annual family weekend. Taking a breather from the chaos of a large family gathering, Dan heads to a bookshop where he meets Marie (Juliette Binoche) eventually persuading her to get to know him. The two lose track of time talking to each other and exchange numbers before parting finally after Marie’s current boyfriend rings. Love struck and giddy, Dan returns home only to find Marie with her current boyfriend- his brother Mitch (Dane Cook).
My second viewing of this heartwarming rom-com come family drama and I’ve still come away from it with a fuzzy feeling. It’s a lesser known Carell film but is no lesser in terms of its content. The performances make the film, enhancing the emotions and creating tender moments amidst the comedy. Carell is brilliant as expected, not going for his over the top comedy but his more lovable mishap-ridden characters like previously seen in Little Miss Sunshine. All the Carell traits are there, of course including a hilarious dance segment. It’s a realistic depiction of how families operate if albeit a very idealised one, the true chaos of a large family appropriately displayed. The humour isn’t slapstick or immature but instead comes from the awkwardness of situations or characters reactions to one another.
Despite the interesting and touching romantic narrative twist to set the story arc off, the narrative is like Cheaper by the Dozen combined with Meet the Parents, there are elements of both films narratives in Dan in Real Life. Some of the scenes are almost exact replicas. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, the film contains some of the best aspects of its predecessors and makes for an easy watch. The narrative follows a proper arc right through to resolutions for all subplots. Its only downsides are the sheer number of characters they’ve tried to include, it’s a mass family reunion of what I’ve worked out must be the four
children and their new families with the siblings parents hosting. Outside of the only characters that seem to matter (Dan, Marie and Mitch) I couldn’t really tell you what the other’s names are or how most of them are related. It seems like a waste and unnecessary to the plot, yet the filmmakers seem keen to cram them in where they can.
It’s not a cinematic masterpiece but the film successfully makes its audiences empathise with each of the characters accordingly and creates moments of true sentiment. It’s a cute film and its lighthearted narrative allows you watch it comfortably and come out the other side having experienced a good level of catharsis.