Ryan Reynolds would be perfectly serviceable as a supporting player in a film.
His impassive eyes, underwear model looks and inflection speech patterns would be ideal somewhere in the periphery of the central action of a movie.
He could come on to provide information to move the story along, and allow the leading man or woman to be the primary focus.
However, in the film Definitely, Maybe, he’s asked to carry the movie – that was not a good idea. Reynolds lacks the timing, charm and screen presence to carry a romantic lead. His inadequacies seem even more apparent in scenes with his female co-stars who all seem too smart and luminous for him.
The film stars Reynolds as Will Hayes, a Manhattan advertising exec, who, as the film opens, is receiving divorce papers from his spouse.
He’s disheartened, but agrees to share custody of their 10-year-old daughter, Maya (Abigail Breslin).
One day, following a lengthy discussion at her school about “sexual intimacy,” Maya probes her dad into how he and her mother met.
After some reluctance, he agrees, but reveals that he was actually courting two other women during the same time period. He changes names so that Maya and the audience cannot figure out which one would eventually become his wife until later.
Then he flashes back to 1992. This was the year of Bill Clinton’s run for president.
Hayes, young, bright and idealistic, feels so passionatly about Clinton that he leaves his girlfriend, Emily, (Elizabeth Banks) in Madison, Wis. to help with the campaign in New York.
At the New York office, he meets April (Isla Fisher), who is apathetic to politics. She works in the office xeroxing fliers and fetching coffee, but she sees the impassioned support for the Democratic candidate to be quite funny.
It’s hard to look at these scenes and not see a parallel with Hillary Clinton’s run for president today.
The third woman to complete the triangle of lovers is Rachel Weisz, who plays Summer Hartley. She’s a charismatic journalist living with her former thesis adviser Hampton Roth, a grizzled Kevin Kline, who steals virtually every scene he is in.
Which of these women will eventually become her mother is the central gimmick in the movie. But the movie does benefit by creating some truly shrewd and engaging characters played by Banks, Fisher, Kline and Weisz. They essentially carry the movie.
Writer/director Adam Brooks deserves credit for making the characters multi-dimensional, a refreshing break from typical romantic comedies. There are no stereotypical villains, or advantages one woman would have over the other. They are each smart and funny, bringing a believability to the film’s central gimmick.
However, in the end, I just couldn’t help asking myself: “What would women as smart and engaging as Fisher, Banks and Weisz want with a dull pretty boy like Reynolds in the first place?”
And the fact that it’s never revealed why his wife is serving him divorce papers also looms large, unless “extreme boredom” are grounds for separation.
I also had a problem with film’s ending. Granted, it’s upbeat tone is what should be expected from a romantic farce. But given the nature of the circumstances, when you really think about it, it seemed inappropriate and irresponsible to me, made all the more so with Maya’s involvement.
Definitely, Maybe has funny moments and a good supporting cast, but this is certainly one film you-definitely, maybe-should just wait for on DVD.