‘Definitely’ a must-see

Romantic comedies have long been a cinematic staple. Despite their massive popularity, however, most of these so-called love stories are pathetically ineffective.

Every year, only a handful of respectable romantic comedies are released, and Definitely, Maybe has emerged as the first great one of 2008.

Achieving a feat that few films dare to aspire to, the film successfully juggles three love stories as thirty-something Will Hayes (Ryan Reynolds) tells his 11-year-old daughter Maya (Abigail Breslin of Little Miss Sunshine fame) the story of how he met her mother – his soon-to-be ex-wife.

While Hayes recounts the story, the film reveals his past and his various romantic entanglements, although the identity of Maya’s mother remains a mystery until the end. As Maya observes early on, the tale comes off “like a love story mystery,” and this device imbues the film with a sense of suspense and originality.

Elizabeth Banks (The 40-Year-Old Virgin), Isla Fisher (Wedding Crashers) and Academy Award – winner Rachel Weisz play Hayes’ three love interests in the film. All deliver strong performances, creating fully developed characters in their time on screen. This diversity adds to the film’s appeal, making it difficult for viewers to deduce which woman Hayes will end up marrying.

The film also marks a much-needed new direction for Reynolds, who finally escapes the slacker persona that has plagued his career since Van Wilder. He takes a massive step forward in this film, establishing himself as a credible leading man and proving that he can carry a film without reverting to the over-the-top silliness he displayed in movies like Just Friends.

Definitely, Maybe never slips into clichés and wisely avoids the implausible antics that plague so many entries in the genre. Writer/director Adam Brooks – who previously tackled complicated romances as the writer of films such as Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and Wimbledon – instead grounds the film in a reality much like our own.

Love is never portrayed as perfect; all of the characters are clearly flawed and therefore human. As Maya ultimately comes to realize, love is “complicated,” and the film never forgets that.

Definitely, Maybe comes from three of the same producers as Love Actually, and the film possesses the same magic as the 2003 masterpiece, demonstrating a perfect balance of humor and heart. At its core, the film asserts that it is never too late for a second chance at happiness, so long as one can decide what he or she wants and muster the courage to pursue it.

At a time in which the top of the box office charts is filled with dreck like Meet the Spartans, Definitely, Maybe relies on old-fashioned storytelling and captivating characters to win over audiences. With consistently strong performances, a heartwarming script and a trio of love stories, Definitely, Maybe is definitely a film that should not be missed.

Rating: PG-13Runtime: 112 min.Grade: A-