Pros:Some funny scenes, a couple of great one-liners, effective emotional connection
Cons:This film tends to get overrated as brilliant.
The Bottom Line: Very entertaining movie about love, loss, family and new love.
Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.
Recommend this product?
I like when I hear good things about a movie, and then the movie lives up to the hype and expectations. This is a fine example of that situation. Yet, sometimes people tend to overstate the greatness of movies and so on some level you're disappointed by the end result. The direction that some viewers raves have been going, I expected this to be like another Little Miss Sunshine, which I enjoyed a great deal. It was not. But, I was still thoroughly entertained by Dan In Real Life, even after all the hype.
Dan is an advice columnist for a local newspaper and he's on the verge of national syndication. His wife Suzanne had died four years ago, and he is left with three daughters ages 9, 15 and 17. He tried to be a good father the only way he knows how, but it doesn't seem to be working so well with the teenaged girls. The family lives in New Jersey and they are on their way to the annual family reunion at Dan's parents house in Rhode Island.
The house is large but with the four families, it is still cramped enough so that Dan is sleeping in the laundry room by himself on a cot. On the first day there, Dan errands to a bookstore and meets a woman named Marie. It is the first time he felt a connection with a woman since his wife died. Dan and Marie share a cup of coffee and a conversation and when he gets back to his parents house, he tells the family about the wonderful woman he's just met. Just moments later she walks into the room and is introduced as his brother Mitch's new girlfriend.
Dan is obtusely uncomfortable with the situation as he only is able to thinly veil his awkwardness around Marie. His feelings grow stronger for her, his choices are only further alienating his daughters from him, and Mitch is growing suspicious. Will Dan learn some valuable life lessons and turn the situation around within the 98 minutes movie? You can either buy it or rent it to find out; I promise it will be worth it.
In just the first few minutes of the movie, the movie's title kept coming to mind and making more and more sense. "Dan in Real Life" is not as successful as the Dan who is the advice columnist. His advice column is very successful with the public, but the real life Dan is having more than his share of trouble with his own life and his relationship with his children. He is selfish for the most part; he doesn't listen to the people around him and then dictates how they should live their lives, sort of how he does in his column.
Steve Carell (The Office, 40 Year Old Virgin) plays Dan. It was sort of hard for me to root for his character in this movie. I found it extremely annoying that he constantly called attention to his growing erratic behavior. His life had suddenly become confused because of his feelings for Marie (Juliette Binoche - Chocolat), and he came across as feeling justified should anyone question why he is acting crazy. Plus, since his role in Little Miss Sunshine, it seems that Steve Carell is getting labeled as brilliant more often than not. He's starting to remind me a lot of Kevin Spacey's unfounded rep. Yet, I can go beyond this and still enjoy Carell's performance. He was funny at times, charming as well in other places.
Dane Cook (Employee of the Month, Good Luck Chuck) played his brother Mitch. Dane is cast in his usual role as a player and a ladies man. Dan's daughters were played by three beauties, Alison Pill (Pieces of April) played Jane who was the oldest. Brittany Robertson (The Ghost Club) plays the beautiful, thong-wearing boy crazy Cara, the middle child. Marlene Lawston (Flight Plan) plays his adorable, loving youngest daughter. Each actress was perfectly cast and did a wonderful job. Cara, the 15 year old appeared to have the largest role of the three daughters. She is lovesick over Marty, a boy from school who she has been seeing without her father's permission. When Dan had forbid her to see Marty anymore (because she's too young), she gives him the title "murderer of love."
Speaking of funny one-liners, this movie had a good share. One was even poignant and is probably one that I'll use in my 'real life'. Marty, Cara's boyfriend told Dan that "love is not a feeling, it's an ability." The phrase really rings true to me. If you allow yourself to love, then you also can be loved. The line turned out to be a life lesson for Dan in the movie as well.
The music was enjoyable and sometimes even surprising. The use of Vanity's Nasty Girl (performed by Inaya Day here) was funny, entertaining and nostalgic. It's been so long since I had even thought of the song. My favorite song here was written by Dane Cook and Noebert Leo Butz (who played Clay in the movie). They sang a song called Ruthie Pigface Draper that was truly hilarious.
It is an awkward love story, it's not the best love story I've sat down and watched, not by a long shot. You'll easily be entertained, and there is an emotional connection that you'll make most likely. For me, the love story was secondary to the relationship he had with his family. I can easily recommend this film, it's funny, and its engaging and heart-warming.
Dan In Real Life
Starring Steve Carell, Dane Cook, Juliette Binoche, Dianne Weist
Director: Peter Hedges (Pieces of April, About a Boy)
Viewing Format: Blu-Ray
Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older