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Dan in Real Life (film review)

Posted on April 16, 2009 at 10:40 AM

I've seen plenty of films that I didn't care for in my time, but Dan in Real Life (Hedges, 2007) was one of the few that actually had me squirming in my seat; unable to bear the excruciating clichéd dialogue and horribly contrived plot. But above the poor writing and bad acting lies a far more fundamental flaw with this "romantic comedy" -- it is neither funny, nor loving. Apart from a few early grins at Steve Carells mannerisms ("put it on my tab"), I did not laugh once during this stale movie. And it wasn't that the jokes weren't funny, it's that there weren't any jokes in the first place. The writers seem to have employed a "well if you we don't try, we can't fail" approach; not even attempting to inject the film with a sense of humour, or at least make use of Carells natural flare for comedy. ـthe two, supposedly, "love-struck" characters, Dan (Carell) and Marie (Binoche) share no on screen chemistry whatsoever. In fact, they seem almost repelled by one another. There first meeting begins with a terribly pretentious "I'm trying to find the perfect book" rant from Marie ("I want to be swept away" GAG!), and then descends into a supposedly profound conversation between the two characters that we never actually see, as the director has chosen to splice up the interaction into a vague, cheesy montage that omits the part where these two characters actually "click". So, right from the get-go, it's difficult for the audience to sympathise with the two leads, as the profound emotional connection they apparently share is handled so lazily.


Aside from the lack of romance and comedy, Dan in Real Life suffers from an appallingly cheesy script. The dialogue in this movie is so clichéd and ridiculous that I actually found myself gagging in disgust during certain scenes. Some choice quotes from the movie are "the day I met her I thought I had died, because she looked like an angel", "love doesn't come to you, you have to look for it", "you're a murderer of love", "I want to experience the world", and (my personal favourite) "love is an ability", spoken by a character who has one line in the movie, and who I was hoping Dan would sucker punch for saying something so stupid, but, alas, he actually steps back and repeats it as if it were a piece of poetry. Carell actually looks embarrassed having to relay this crappy dialogue into the camera. I felt sorry for him, because, comically and dramatically, he is worth so much more than this. Apart from Carell, the only descent acting in the film comes from comedian Dane Cook, who plays Dan's brother Mitch, but even he struggles to humanise the pompous tripe coming out of his mouth.


Another major problem I had with the film was the characters. They're annoying, unlikable and downright nasty. While Dan is pinning after Marie, she could barely give a stuff about him, finding more pleasure in romancing the family about her travels, making out with Dan's brother Mitch (her current boyfriend), and then mocking Dan when he approaches her about dealing with their relationship. Dan's parents and siblings are miserable people, constantly badgering him for not having a life and for being a bad father, and ignoring his achievements and genuine attempts to connect with them. Worst of all though, are Dan's own daughters, who are some of the most rudest, disrespectful and immature kids I've ever seen. Even the youngest, and nicest one, tells Dan that he's a "bad dad". What a horrible thing to say to your grieving father. And the two older ones act like spoilt little brats, chucking a tantrum whenever things don't go their way. Even the brother, Mitch, who seemed like a genuinely nice guy, and was hurt when Dan stole his "soul mate" away from him, is back with another girl the next day. Talk about shallow and hypocritical. The only likable character here is Dan, and his friends and family treat him with utter contempt, as I do this movie.


This was a miserable experience for me--full of contrived dialogue, mean-spirited characters, clichéd situations, and an utterly wretched sense of human feeling. It's a shame that an actor as talented as Carrell (The 40-Year Old Virgin, Little Miss Sunshine) and a director as skillful as Hodge (What's Eating Gilbert Grape, About a Boy) have succumbed to this kind of awful story-telling; I hope their careers can recover. I may have wasted $12 and 2 hours of my life on this piece of garbage, but that doesn't mean you have to. There is nothing positive I can say about this movie. Don't see it!

Categories: ARTICLES, Cinema

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