Wednesday, January 16, 2008

DAN IN REAL LIFE - Two words: Pig Face

Love is not a feeling, Mr. Burns. It's an ability.Peter Hedges is a screenwriter who has an uncanny ability to write about real life and real relationships in a way that you can relate to, that touches you, but isn't mawkish. After brilliant adaptations of WHAT'S EATING GILBERT GRAPE? and ABOUT A BOY, and a really great indie drama called PIECES OF APRIL, he returns to the screen as writer-director of DAN IN REAL LIFE.

This new movie is a far more conventional, mainstream effort than his previous work. The story is familiar to rom-com fans, not least to those of us who sat through the vastly inferior THE FAMILY STONE. Basically a man falls in love at first sight with the one woman he can't have - his brother's new girlfriend. Watch them squirm through the family weekend! Watch true love win despite the initial anger of the betrayed! In this case we have Steve Carrell playing an earnest, heart-broken widower and father of three called Dan Burns. He's basically just a warm, funny, messed up guy - who wouldn't fall in love with him?! And so he meets-cute with a woman called Marie, played by Juliette Binoche. Marie is basically apparently a 100% Peaches and Cream wonderful women. Problem is, she's dating the younger brother, Mitch, played by Dane Cook.

The script has a few problems. I don't understand why these two seemngly perfect people would be alone in the first place. I also don't really buy into how quickly Dan's parents, kids and brother forgive him in the end. And as for the production, I thought Juliette Binoche was mis-cast. It's not so much that she can't play comedy but that she, Carrell and Cook make such odd pairings. There's simply no chemistry.

Set against all of this, DAN IN REAL LIFE is refreshingly real, occasionally very funny, and features a wonderful cameo from Emily Blunt. Most of all, Steve Carrell really has the sympathetic loser character down pat. He's totally infringing on Greg Kinnear's territory, but he's so winning you just have to forgive him! So, on balance, I guess I'd have to recommend DAN IN REAL LIFE. It's not as good as ABOUT A BOY but if I stumbled upon it on TV I'd find it hard to switch channels.

DAN IN REAL LIFE opened in the US, Iceland, Russia, Greece, Israel, Russia Greece, Israel and Slovenia in 2007. It is currently playing in Singapore and the UK. It opens in Australia next weel and in Norweay amd Spain in February. It opens in Sweden, Belgium, France, Germany and Italy in March and in the Netherlands in April 2008.

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