This weekend and last I was planning on going out of town on a mission to buy shirts. I love shirts more than life itself. But last weekend I had some kind of work I needed to do, and this weekend I overslept. The really neat thing about this is that I’ve thus had the great pleasure of large, unscheduled blocks of time in which to watch movies, watch old episodes of Northern Exposure, eat brunch, hang out in my friend’s secondhand shop, hang out with another friend I hardly ever get to see, read, listen to albums I haven’t been able to listen to, and generally hermit-ize.
First, at the risk of bringing shame to the name of all Salams everywhere, I’ll note that one of the three movies I’ve seen this weekend so far (I still hope to see Step Up 2: Step Up 2 the Streets) was Definitely, Maybe, a romantic comedy. Rod Dreher recently pointed me to a preacher who claims that God hates men who pee while sitting down. Surely God also hates men who enjoy romantic comedies, and also any self-respecting man, woman, or child who confesses to enjoying the comedy stylings of Van Wilder veteran Ryan Reynolds. Sad to say, this means I’m headed straight for Hell, as I’ve enjoyed Reynolds’ work immensely ever since his bravura performance in Just Friends.
Like Just Friends, Definitely, Maybe is an exercise in recent-past nostalgia. Recent-ish, I should say. The heart of the action goes from 1992 to about 1998. My friend and I were supposed to see No Country for Old Men, which I’ve already seen twice, but it was sold out. And so, on the strength of this not-exactly-ecstatic review from The A.V. Club, I pushed for Definitely, Maybe after my friend ruled out Charlie Bartlett (which was awesome, but more on that in a moment).
In spite of a shortage of wit and only a mild intelligence at its core, the film at least seems intended for adults, treating matters of the heart with the thorniness inherent in fundamentally decent people trying to figure out whether they’re compatible. Put simply, the film excels most at not being awful.
Oy, talk about a burn. But yes, this is exactly the kind of movie that seems as though it’s going to be utterly witless and surprises by being better than passable. The movie was of particular interest to me because the “historical” part is exactly ten years out of sync with my cohort. The flashbacks that track the protagonists 20s in the ’90s track my 20s in the ’00s. And though the circumstances are of course radically (radically) different, it’s nice to see a bunch of decent, well-meaning people grow up on screen, on fast-forward. Wrenching moments get all the attention, but it is the steady accumulation of non-destructive, good decisions that turn kids into interesting, accomplished adults. Compromised adults, too, much of the time. Scott Tobias picks up on the not-so-subtle political subtext in his review, and he also rightly highlights Isla Fisher.
Five years ago, I thought I’d love to read a magazine, an annual or semi-annual magazine, that was a collection of life stories of people in their early 30s who’ve made happy, fulfilling lives for themselves. You’d buy it for recent grads, it would be beautifully produced, and the subjects of the profiles would come from a wide range of fields, disciplines, etc. I can’t imagine this sounds terribly original, but I know I’d still love to read such a magazine, and I imagine there are others as well. Sounds a little sappy, I suppose.
I had another reason to see Definitely, Maybe: I actually interviewed one of the stars for a miniature piece that ran in one of my favorite magazines. It was an odd but educational experience. If I ever get to do it again, I think I’ll be less terrified.