“Definitely, Maybe” is 2008’s Valentine’s Day “treat;” couples across the country will likely flock to the theatres for its candied-heart charm. Directed by Adam Brooks, the film stars Ryan Reynolds as Will Hayes, a single father who exams his past relationships through the eyes of his daughter Maya (Abigail Breslin). It’s like “High Fidelity” (the wretched film, not the sweet novel) only without all that annoying talking-to-the-camera.
Will is in the middle of the divorce process when his daughter questions what went wrong. Answering it with a simple, one-sentence answer is not enough. Maya wants more; she wants to hear how her parents’ relationship started and what events brought it to an end. Will decides to transform the explanation into a kind of game; he gives Maya the details of all of his failed relationships so that she will ultimately realize that the only doomed relationship was really the one with her mother.
“Definitely, Maybe” explores three of Will’s ex-girlfriends, and they each occupy a set of well-known clichés. The journey begins in Wisconsin with his hometown girlfriend Emily (Elizabeth Banks), who doesn’t share Will’s big city dreams. While he packs his bags for New York City to work on Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign, Emily gives him a book to deliver to her old college roommate Summer (Rachel Weisz).
Summer ends up being the intelligent type. She knows her literary figures, famous works, and prefers to date older professor types. Then Will meets April (Isla Fisher), the carefree, hippy sort. After having Will go back and forth between both women, the film turns into a “romantic mystery.” It forces Maya (and then us) to figure out which of these ladies made the cut for marriage and which ones didn’t.
Adam Brooks has had plenty of experience writing this genre of films (“French Kiss”, “Wimbledon” and “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason” to name a few), and as his directorial debut, “Definitely, Maybe” could’ve been worse. The development of Will’s relationships, which can be tricky on the writing side, is presented decently but overall runs a bit too long. Furthermore, the scenes between father and daughter, where they continually discuss who could/couldn’t the mother, never seem to end (there’s no doubt that the purpose is to figure it out, so why not let the story tell itself?). As a romantic comedy, “Definitely, Maybe” is an explosion of sweetness and hugs that might cause your stomach to churn if you don’t like your sentimentality too strong.