May-be my Valentine, Ryan

by Beacon Staff • February 13, 2008

Indecision on Valentine's Day is not a new phenomenon. The pressure to come up with the perfect Valentine's Day date is sometimes too much for the boyfriend to handle. He cannot decide if paying for a candle-lit McDonald's meal would be enough or if his girlfriend expects him to spend his month's salary on a chandelier-lit, Parisian restaurant.

Also facing two extremes, single individuals cannot settle on one emotion, wavering between feeling Ra! Ra! about their independence and wallowing in the dark with ice cream and emo music.

Definitely, Maybe, the new romantic comedy from the creators of Notting Hill and Love, Actually, knows all about the worries that come from being petrified by a relationship or the fear of being alone.

Like the track that plays over the opening credits, "Everyday People" by Sly The Family Stone, the movie is about everyday people and their confusions about love-feelings that are only emphasized by the film's Valentine's Day release date.

The movie starts off in present day New York, following Will Hayes (Ryan Reynolds) as he struggles with a divorce and a very inquisitive daughter, Maya, played by Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine). In order to understand how her parents could have fallen out of love, she gets her dad to tell the story of his romantic past. Will decides to turn the story into a mystery, refusing to tell Maya which of his three serious girlfriends is her mom.

Hayes' decade-long tale begins in 1992 as he leaves Wisconsin, and his college love Emily (Elizabeth Banks) to pursue his other love-politics. He journeys to New York to intern with the presidential campaign of his hero, Bill Clinton.

Reynolds's na've, optimistic Hayes is reminiscent of Jimmy Stewart in the movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. They both have a sunny view of politics and all of the Founding Father's democratic ideals. Hayes' idealistic thinking begins to crumble, however, when he realizes his dream of making a difference in the political world is just that-a dream. He hits an ultimate low during the period of Clinton's impeachment trial, a trial that not only symbolizes the downfall of his hero, but also of his own can-do belief system.

Hayes finds himself asking the inevitable question everyone asks after life goes into a seemingly endless downward spiral: "What am I doing here?"

The undeniable truth in this question justifies the attention and time the film pays to Hayes' job over the three romance storylines.

It also does not hurt that Hayes' political aspirations and his love life have virtually the same highs and lows. While Clinton is doing well in the election, everything is right with Hayes' love life, but while Clinton is facing the possibility of impeachment, Hayes sits by himself in his apartment, flinging Chinese food at the television screen.

William Hayes' three great loves are bearable clicheacute;s who bring their own typical relationship issues to the table. Emily, his first love, is the usual suburban college girlfriend: all blonde hair and pearls, but with serious commitment issues. April (Isla Fisher) is the "rebel" best friend with a soft spot for Jane Eyre. Summer (Rachel Weisz) is the passionate, power-hungry journalist whose love for her job is greater than her need for a man. The screenwriters must have worried that the audience wouldn't be able to tell the women apart without the obvious, clicheacute;d differences between them.

What makes up for the commonly played female archetypes is that there is a surprising amount of chemistry between Reynolds and each actress.

"You can't manufacture chemistry," said Reynolds in an interview with The Beacon. "With each actress there was a different dynamic to the relationship. It's really a roll of the dice."

The father-daughter relationship feels, for the most part, unforced.

"We hit it off on screen and off.[Before we met], All I could think was that I hope she liked me," said Reynolds.

Breslin, or in Reynolds's words, "Judi Dench in good make up," makes Maya come across as a very smart and empathetic 10-year-old in her exchanges with Reynolds, stealing scenes whenever Maya interrupts Hayes' love story to ask questions or to scold her father for some inexcusably embarrassing acts.

Halfway through the movie, Maya stops interrupting the story, almost making the audience forget that some parts of Hayes' romantic escapades would never be told to his kid without the necessary interference by a social worker. Maya is, after all, only ten, and this movie is PG-13.

By the end of Definitely, Maybe, the audience finally discovers who the mother is. This is an unpredictable ending to an otherwise predictable but nevertheless loveable romantic comedy.

This film is, after all, a fairy tale-it only works if the audience is willing to suspend their disbelief and give the heart-shaped confetti creation a shot. If Valentine's Day plans are still uncertain, here's a decision: see the fun, heart-pulling fluff that is Definitely, Maybe.