Dan in Real Life

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dan in real life

I wish the movie would’ve been about this couple, played by John Mahoney and Dianne Wiest.

The screenwriter of What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and About a Boy – two great movies – made his directorial debut with another film he wrote, Pieces of April. This is starting to look like a nice film career for Peter Hedges, even with this little road bump that’s Dan in Real Life, which is actually nothing like real life (and that’s one of my biggest pet peeves with movies).

This romantic comedy isn’t very romantic, and it’s filled with too many one-dimensional characters.

Dan is played by Steve Carell. He’s an advice columnist in the paper, and writes fiction (just like director Hedges). He’s about to get a syndication deal, too. He’s got three daughters, two of which are teenagers. His wife died four years ago and he’s having a tough time raising them on his own.

His family has a yearly tradition of gathering at the grandparents house (played by two actors I adore – Dianne Wiest and John Mahoney).

Dan runs into Marie (Juliette Binoche) at a bookstore. They meet in that usual cute way they always do in movies, and the two do have some chemistry together. The plot thickens when – we find out Marie has a boyfriend. Not just that, it’s Dan’s younger, obnoxious brother, played by comedian Dane Cook. This is when the movie turns into a bad sitcom, where they meet in different parts of the house. It makes it hard for me to root for Dan, and you’re supposed to. Since he knows she’s in a relationship, he should just move on. He also plays this character so low-key. It’s almost as if his wife died two days earlier and he’s still grieving.

It’s a shame we don’t see more of the talented Emily Blunt, or Norbert Leo Butz. I caught him in San Diego during the live production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and he ended up winning the Tony after it hit Broadway. That man has some serious comedic chops.

There are scenes with a cop Dan runs into often, and that doesn’t really work. I also didn’t care for the interaction he had with his daughters. He’s just so bland and uninteresting. You end up watching this movie, not believing any of the scenarios on screen. That doesn’t mean it’s void of anything interesting, but it’s certainly a disappointment; especially considering the cast involved.

I’m giving this movie a C-.