DAN IN REAL LIFE
Widower Dan Burns (Steve Carell) finds his job as professional advice columnist much easier than his role as father looking after his three rebellious daughters. At 17 Jane (Alison Pill) wants to practice her driving skills, 15year old Cara (Brittany Robertson) is passionate about a boy at school and 9 year old Lilly (Marlene Lawston) craves for affection. At the annual family holiday in Rhode Island, Dan meets Marie (Juliette Binoche) at the local bookstore and is besotted by her. Little does he know she is his younger brother Mitch (Dane Cook)'s new girlfriend, who is bunking in with the whole extended family at the invitation of their mother (Dianne Wiest).
Review by Louise Keller:
Discovering love's 'rightness from wrongness' is the thrust of this warm and naturally funny film that weaves all kinds of love together in one compelling package. The golden rules of honesty, being trustworthy and putting the family unit first fly helter skelter as we discover love is not a feeling, but an ability. Peter Hedges (What's Eating Gilbert Grape, About A Boy) has written sublime script that keeps emotions sharp and ultra-real. It's hilarious and painful as only real situations can be, and Hedges directs his excellent cast, with sensitivity and wry humour.
Life is chaotic for Steve Carell's Dan Burns whose life is split into Mr Fix-It for the readers of his Dan-In-Real-Life column and Mr Mom to his three demanding daughters. Carell is exceptionally good, displaying vulnerability and subtlety his zany comedies belie, as the uptight father who has forgotten how to love. When he meets the ever-lovely Juliette Binoche's Marie in the local bookshop, struggling to find books to counter the awkward situation she anticipates with her new boyfriend's family, they bond over blueberry muffins and coffee. At their next meeting, when introduced as his fun-loving brother Mitch (Dane Cook)'s girl, awkwardness and despair fuse throughout the family's togetherness activities (games, exercises, walks, meals) and become one perpetual nightmare. Nothing is played for laughs. Even the scene in which Dan (fully clothed) and Marie (naked) end up in the shower together (don't ask!) is painfully real. Then there's the delicious blind date with Ruthie 'Pigface' Draper (Emily Blunt) that eventuates into a blatant example of Jealousy On Display.
But the romance between Dan and Marie is the icing on the cake. The complex and textured relationships that form the film's foundation are between Dan and his daughters (Alison Pill, Brittany Robertson, Marlene Lawston, all excellent), his brother Mitch (Cook) and mother (Dianne Wiest). It is all there: the well-meaning interference, the bickering, the recriminations and the genuine caring between the family members. There is a fine line between comedy and tragedy and Hedges nails it absolutely.
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DAN IN REAL LIFE (PG)
CAST: Steve Carell, Juliette Binoche, Dane Cook, Emily Blunt, Alison Pill, Brittany Robertson, Marlene Lawston, Dianne Wiest, John Mahoney, Norbert Leo Butz, Amy Ryan
PRODUCER: Brad Epstein
DIRECTOR: Peter Hedges
SCRIPT: Peter Hedges, Pierce Gardner
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Lawrence Sher
EDITOR: Sarah Flack
MUSIC: Sondre Lerche
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Sarah Knowles
RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 14, 2008