Dan in Real Life- Plan your life to be surprised!!!...

Whenever I see the name Peter Hedges printed on a movie poster as a director, I know that the movie will have a unique blend of humor and heartbreak, yet Dan in Real Life is also blissfully funny and touching.

Good comedians who become Hollywood actors tend to follow a familiar pattern. Over time, they get soft, becoming all tender and ''humanized.'' Richard Pryor more or less set the template for this ritual and his example was followed by Robin ''I Love Me!'' Williams and Jim Carrey, who's had an on-again, off-again fling with taming his own made revolution. Steve Carell, after The 40 Year-Old Virgin, he already looked he was halfway in the same pattern I mentioned above and the way he played the yuppie Noah in Evan Almighty made me dread the worst when I went to see Dan in Real Life, in which Carell plays a family-values newspaper columnist, an advice column filled with the common sense he lacks himself, who is also the widowed father of three daughters.

Carell's Dan Burns is a good father, maybe a superhuman one, but a bit overprotective; he's clenched with fear. Taking his spoiled brat princesses for a weekend reunion at his parents idyllic home on the Rhode Island shore, he gets sucked into the swirl of parents, brothers, kids, and it's a shock to see a family house-party movie ruled by affection rather than backbiting.

In the four years since his wife died, Dan's been laying down rigid rules for his girls and dragging his ass about relationships. Then, out of the blues, in a bookstore, he meets a woman (the bracingly lovely Juliette Binoche) who makes him laugh and, better yet, makes him want to make her laugh. Only to learn that the boyfriend is...his brother Mitch (Dane Cook), and she's staying for the weekend! It's a jaw-dropper of a twist, and here's the thing: There's no bad feelings. Dan loves his brother, who looks like he might be settling down at last.

Dan has to hold in his feelings, but more than that, he has to try to kill them and the whole movie spins around Carell's inspired performance as a man who is going quietly nuts because the universe has decided to toy with him and in the film the universe finds every possible way to make things even worse for Dan. The brother is blameless, and Marie seems to genuinely like him. And wherever Dan goes in the house, he has to hear someone in the family raving about how wonderful Marie is. The story might sound like the last green mile to an electric chair for most men but funnily enough it turns out to be a lively and moving comedy, and that Carell, instead of drowning in a bath of ''warmth,'' holds on to his inner wild man in the shrewdest way possible.

Carell shows a whole new side to his talents. Even in the brief bookstore encounter, he makes you feel Dan's ache and yearning. You also feel his horror when Dan sees Anne for the first time at his parent’s house being introduced as his brother’s new flame for the first time but Carell and Binoche ' keep it real. Sharing their company really is a pleasure. Binoche’s radiance make the the film more realistic and she gives the most direct performance she has in years. In the era of the fading chick flick, it's refreshing to see a movie about two grown-ups who fall in love because they look as if they truly do need each other

Dan in Real Life is a comedy of faith that, in its wised-up feel-good way, restores yours. It is an achievement because it is a romantic comedy in which its characters manage to be romantic, hilarious and recognizably human at the same time. Hedges' screenplay, co-written by Pierce Gardner, is close to perfection. This movie fires on so many track that at times it's actually shocking how good it is. It tells a funny and emotional story without any of the sentimental shorthand found in most romantic comedies. And though its level of pure comic craftsmanship dwarfs most contenders, it doesn't feel in any way constructed. It feels intuitive and inspired a film of humanity and insight.

Most comedies don't advance much beyond a captivating idea. Dan in Real Life does. Even if you end up guessing where the story eventually goes, its path is so eccentric that each turn in the journey comes as a surprise. And most of the surprises are very funny. This is impressive comic writing.

The cast is strong in all positions. Dianne Wiest and John Mahoney play the parents, and Emily Blunt has a featured role as a former ugly duckling transformed by time into a gorgeous hottie. Dan's three daughters are vivid, particularly Marlene Lawston as his adorable youngest. Alison Pill brings a nice, burgeoning adult consciousness to the role of the eldest daughter, and Brittany Robertson is comically adept as the rebellious, lovesick middle daughter

This movie boasts truthful performances and camerawork that's tasteful and psychologically smart without calling attention to itself. In one scene, Dan opens a door and finds his youngest daughter having a conversation with Marie. He'd love to join them, but he knows he shouldn't, and the camera emphasizes his longing by hanging back with him and not moving in for a tight shot of the daughter. Such psychological perception and sensitive intelligence characterize Hedges' work throughout, and the result is one of the half-dozen best American films so far this year.

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Claire said…
Great review,well done!!!!!!Glad to have shared this movie with you:)
CODama said…
It was an honor watching the film with you and I have to thank you that you asked me out and reminded me about it or else I would have lost this gem of a film and a diamond for company
Claire said…
It was my pleasure,you know i always enjoy your company tesoruccio!!!!!!

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