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Dan in Real Life (2007)

Directed by Peter Hedges Written by Peter Hedges & Pierce Gardner

  There comes a time in every popular comedians career when they must put the laughs aside and showcase an inner talent. It’s not like you can forever remain the comedic force you once were…at least not like in their prime. In the past it seems several other comedians I adore have begun that transition and has either paid off or wildly confused their fans. What I’ve noticed always ends up happening (now, at least) is a slow but constant working into family films when nothing else seems to work out. I digress. Writer Peter Hedges had gotten the inspiration for the script, having grown up with a single father and paid a tribute to him by his depiction of the main character Dan. Never someone who expected anyone to feel sorry for him, he simply went through the motions of accepting where life had taken him.

  Widow and father to his three girls Jane, (Alison Pill) Cara (Britt Robertson) and Lily, (Marlene Lawston) Dan (Steve Carell) invests whatever time away not with his girls working on his advice column that later leads to the possibility of a big promotion. Soon attending their annual family get together, we meet the entirely too big of a family to go through as the tone is instantly set between Dan and the interaction with family members. Familiar and easily lovable faces Dianne Wiest and John Mahoney play the parents as the only other ones recognizable are Amy Ryan, (The Office/Gone Baby Gone) and Jessica Hecht (Sideways). Right away we can tell that they are a close group and they sincerely look forward to time with one another. After settling in however, Nana (Wiest) tells Dan to go to town and get the papers and get lost, it not being a request. Once in town however finds himself in a bookstore with not minutes passing before a stranger enters and mistakes him for a worker. Asking for a book but not just any kind as Dan finds a vast array of them for Marie, (Juliette Binoche) ultimately choosing them all. Furthering their almost instant connection the two go for a drink and some conversation, Dan speaking of the majority of the time about his past. Though Marie is taken away as she seems to be in a hurry and they exchange numbers to simply “finish” the conversation at a later time. He gets home and informs brother Mitch (Dane Cook) of the girl he met and unsure of when to call her. Which gets made into a big fuss as everyone gets involved and Mitch brings his new girlfriend over to assist with the situation.

  Funny enough that it would just so happen to be Marie and they find themselves in an odd predicament. It seems Marie thinks of just coming clean about what had happened and telling the family; Dan knowing it would destroy them and easier said then done. What’s also funny is that Mitch even suggest going after the “hottie” met, if she didn’t have a ring then she was open game. It doesn’t help that it seems the entire family had deemed Marie to be the most fascinating thing on two feet and consistently spoke of her many attributes, the more they got to know her. I really enjoyed the almost bitter responses that are warranted from Dan after this point and we’re able to see how he always finds himself completely surrounded by family one minute and left alone as though some type of unintentional punishment the next. Disrupting the table at dinner and being told to stay out of activities if going to act as such, Dan finds himself straying further from his daughters as it seems the reasons to hate on Dad only pile up. Jane eagerly persisting that she was ready to drive while Cara found herself in love with Marty, sneaking off with him and telling her father that he wouldn’t understand wanting to be with someone so much and knowing they were the only one for you. But yes, a 13 would surely know more than him.  Lily seems to be the one that gets her father and knows that he is trying though fights just the same to be seen while busy bidding her the attention asking for. 

  They do have a part where they put on a talent show…for  themselves! (This family was way too happy, they don’t actually exist do they?) Any who, why yes, we get another random music type sequence that I viddy much enjoyed. Steve Carell had a great voice (hey, I liked it) and the part he does after singing with Dane Cook was a really great moment.

  All together there were nineteen cast members and before shooting, were able to spend time together, play games and make dinners with one another. All but Carell whose show had called for his attention as well and as a surprise, was written letters and prepared a song for when he did arrive on set. Which is usually best when doing these kind of films. If a family is going to have to be convincing then why shouldn’t extra time be put in to really get to know one another. Carell even mentions in the features of it being a good thing of not really being family so as to not have any sort of bad connotations with those working with. Though I can usually “appreciate” the idea of such a family, they just don’t seem realistic enough. Though it was great in that a main character of Dan was clearly separated from the other members and so we got to see from the black sheep’s perspective, more or less. After seeing how fake his brother acted, I would have “acted out” as well. Mitch’s character certainly acted on the lust factor because it takes him all of two seconds to get over Marie when she leaves the day after the talent show. So what happens? Guess you’ll just have to watch to find out.

  I actually seem to like this movie the more that I view it. Having mentioned the transition certain comedic actors can take surely seems no trouble as Carell is able to do so effortlessly. Dane Cook surprisingly did not take away from the film because while I am a fan of his, find that he can be too over the top at times. There was an instance in which Dan in waiting to go on a blind date with Ruthie “Pigface” Draper (Emily Blunt) and while waiting, Mitch performs an unfunny and rather awkward piano fused song about her looks that could have easily be taken out and made up with some of the deleted scenes. I’ve almost forgotten to speak on Juliette Binoche though the film wasn’t really about her so it didn’t seem all that important. She played the role with ease as though not too much of a stretch to be a fascinating creature all on her own. I did have a problem with the after ending, meaning the shot in the future ending that they choose to show while the credits are playing. As far as closure for the film goes, I thought it was obtained without adding that extra bit but suppose it helped the story reach some sort of methodical ending. I didn’t hear too much about Seeking a Friend for the End of the World after it was released but the tone was near enough to make me hope to see Carell in further type roles. Not too bad of a movie and at least this film didn’t make me bawl my eyes out and be overcome with depression…but yanno, in a good way and all.