A widowed father discovers that the woman he fell in love with is his brother’s new girlfriend.
Directed by Peter Hedges, starring Steve Carell and Oscar-winner Juliette Binoche in the lead, Dan in Real Life is a light hearted romantic comedy which has witty, clever jokes throughout.
It is a mature comedy of sorts, in the sense that most of its fun element might involve some thinking on the part of the audience and it is a tad different from most comedies that bank on “explicit content” to bring out the “comedy”.
Dan Burns (Steve Carell) is a successful advice columnist, a widower and father of three daughters: Jane, Cara and Lily. Being a single father doesn’t come easy to him and the first 15-20 minutes of the movie exhibit this fact. It is not that he doesn’t try his best, as his youngest Lily tells him, “You’re a good father, but sometimes, a bad Dad.” Jane has a driver’s license but is not allowed to drive. A love-sick Cara is separated from her boyfriend and Dan becomes a “Murderer of Love”. It is somehow, difficult for him to judge the rate at which the daughters seem to be growing up and the fact that they might have grown up to do certain things doesn’t seem to register too well either.
He takes his daughters to his parents’ vacation home at Rhode Island for a family reunion. His mother realises the situation in the family and advises Dan to go out a bit in order to give his daughters a little space. At a bookstore, he meets Marie (Juliette Binoche) who mistakes him for an employee. After a humorous and a little random conversation over coffee and muffin, Marie has to leave as she has a rendezvous with her new boyfriend’s family, but lets Dan take her number. On reaching home, just as Dan tells his family, he’s fallen in love with a woman he met at the book store; Marie walks in as his brother Mitch’s (Dane Cook) girlfriend. Dan is obviously shattered. Throughout the rest of the movie, Dan and Marie just try to hide their feelings for each other.
Emily Blunt plays Ruthie “Pigfaced” Draper, an ugly duckling-turned-beautiful cosmetic surgeon, who is set up by Dan’s Mom for a double date along with Marie and Mitch. During the dance, both Dan and Marie try their best to show they are having a gala time with their respective dates, but the truth is quite evident. However, during a Family talent show, Dan happens to serenade Marie in front of his brother, resulting in Marie’s break up with Mitch. She leaves in a hustle, but, on her way, not far from home, calls Dan. He rushes to meet her. During an intimate moment after a game of bowling, Dan’s family finds the couple kissing. Unable to bear this, Mitch can’t resist punching his brother. The family’s disappointed with the situation and Dan faces some wrath from his daughters. But, he confesses to them his love for Marie and also manages to win their support. Encouraged by his parents and the girls, Dan decides to get Marie.
Because of rash driving, he had had his license revoked. So, finally, Jane gets to drive and they get Marie home. The final scene shows Dan and Marie getting married and Mitch is shown enjoying with Dr. Draper. A typical, happily-ever-after ending to predictable story line. However, what sets this movie apart from most others is its careful cinematography. 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 an emphasis on psychological perception is evident in Hedges’ other plays and novels too.
All in all, it is an above average film, having grossed $11.8 million in 1,921 theatres in its opening weekend in the US and Canada, ranking #2 at the box office. A must-watch if you are a Steve Carell fan.