Dan In Real Life
- Jake Horsley
- 4 January 2008
Written and directed by Peter Hedges (About a Boy, Pieces of April), Dan in Real Life is firmly rooted in warm, middle-class family values and every bit as predictable and inoffensive as a TV sitcom. It’s the story of Dan (Steve Carell), an advice columnist and widower who lives with his three daughters (Alison Pill, Brittany Robertson, and Marlene Lawston). While visiting his parents, Dan winds up falling in love with his brother’s girlfriend Marie (Juliette Binoche), with predictably farcical results. The film starts promisingly, and the best scenes are between Dan and his daughters, which, despite some sappy dialogue, are remarkably authentic. But once its tired premise takes over, the film settles into complacency, sentimentality and implausibility.
Binoche is cast as the earth angel and given nothing to do except fall in love with Dan and be perfect and luminous. Fortunately, Carell has a pleasantly effortlessly comedy style and he manages to save the film from complete mediocrity – which is probably more than the filmmakers deserve. Carell is like a reverse Jim Carrey: a master of understatement, he knows how to pool his resources and make every expression count. He’s a shrinking violet with a Cary Grant lurking just under the surface. When he lets go with a crazy laugh or serenades Marie the movie grows wings and takes flight. The rest of the time it’s lead-footed and lame, but mildly engaging.
General release, Fri 11 Jan.