Project 101

Dan attempts to watch 101 movies in 12 months

#20 Dan In Real Life

Posted by Dan on January 4, 2009

dan_in_real_lifeWell, here we are, 1/5th of the way through the list! Thanks for sticking by (that is, if there are actually people reading this. If you’re reading this, you should comment! Don’t be afraid!). I think I might have to put the brakes on a little bit – I’ve gone through 20 movies and I’ve only been doing this for a month!

This is one of the movies that was on my own personal ‘must see’ list for quite a while, but not because I’m a Steve Carrell fan – I’m actually fairly impartial to him. I kinda got this feeling that he was becoming a bit typecast, and while some of the movies that he’s been in I’ve really enjoyed, I was kinda wondering when he was going to actually start acting.

Dan In Real Life is the story of Dan Burns, who writes an advice column for his local paper, and is a widower with 3 bratty daughters, as he takes them up to the grandparents house for their annual family holiday. His family is like any others – they seem nice and normal, but with Dan around, there’s always that thin layer on tension that you’re never quite sure when it’s going to break. Dan’s life isn’t really full of pleasure and his family begin to take pity on his subservient ways, especially romantically. His family is played by a fantastic ensemble cast, including Dianne Wiest as his mother, and John Mahony (the old guy from Frasier) as the father. There’s even a great job done by Dane Cook, who plays one of Dan’s brothers, Mitch, which I never saw coming!

One day, Dan makes a quick trip into town to get some supplies when he meets Marie, played by Juliette Binoche (who you might recognise from the Three Colours movie trilogy). Instantly the two hit it off, and what starts off as a quick 5 minute trip to the shops for Dan ends up a day-long impromptu ‘date’ and for once you see Dan come out of his shell and he finally looks happy. After Marie leaves to also head off to a family holiday, Dan practically floats back to the house only just maintaining to not burst out of his skin with joy. He tells the family about the girl and everyone’s esctatic for him. However while this is going on, Dan’s brother Mitch has been busy telling everyone about how nervous he is about bringing his new girlfriend to spend holidays with the family and how this girl could almost be “the one”. So when she shows up– that’s right, Mitch’s girlfriend is Marie.

It’s at this point that the movie can go either way – it can become an all-out slapstick humourous movie or can becoming incredibly saddening and depressing. Luckily, it seems to tread a thin line straight down the middle of both of these options, resulting in what is a thoroughly enjoyable movie. There are laughs there, but they’re not the usual set-em-up-and-knock-em-down jokes, and you find yourself either whincing or laughing because there is, at least for me, that sense of an air of familiarity, which is the movie’s, especially Steve Carell’s greatest asset. There’s a beautiful subtlety to every single piece of dialogue, and it’s reaction to those that hear it.

I really liked everything about this movie and is definitely one of those movies where the more you think back on it, the more you remember the bits about it that you liked. It’s a great story about love that never goes according to plan, with a great cast full of some amazing performances. It’s funny, sad and downright frustrating at all the appropriate moments and is definitely original enough to keep you wondering how the rest will pan out.

I give Dan In Real Life 4 out of 5 single parents.

“Instead of telling our young people to plan ahead, we should tell them to plan to be surprised”

5 Responses to “#20 Dan In Real Life”

  1. Dee said

    This movie was on Foxtel Box Office a while back and I really wanted to watch it, because I love Steve Carell, but I was put off by Dane Cook. I can’t stand that guy. Maybe I should rethink after your glowing review.

    Steve Carell is one of those guys who can really pull off pathos without looking – well – just pathetic. I think he’s quite under-rated as a “proper” actor.

  2. Dan said

    oh definitely, I have boot-loads of respect for SC now.

    And yeah, Dane Cook actually does a pretty good job – he also shows that when he tries, he actually can act. Shock horror. I’m thinking it might be a bit of a “you are the company you keep” thing too

  3. Josh said

    I like Steve Carell, he seems like he knows how to portray confused guys in a way without making them look like jerks.
    Being very confused, I may watch this movie for some tips

  4. Dan said

    it’s weird – it is a comedy, and it does have a couple of laugh-out-loud moments, but for the most of it, I almost found myself relating too much to the character of Dan and I felt so bad for him in a number of scenes … but, I think that in itself is a sign of a good movie.

  5. jak said

    I watched this on the plane going somewhere. I loved it. It was one of only a couple of the many, many movies I watched on the plane that I actually sat all the way through without getting up. And, conveniently, without being interrupted by a steward.

    I totally agree with you, the subtleties of the film, and “do I cringe or giggle or both” moments were what made it for me.

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