MAD: Definitely, Maybe

(2008, Universal/Watched on DVD)

Ryan Reynolds, a man finalising his divorce, tells his eleven year old daughter, Abigail Breslin the complicated bedtime story of how she came to exist. It involves three woman, whose names he changes, all of whom were in and out of his life during the mid-90s. I actually won’t spoil this one, I’ll just say that like 13 Going on 30, it surprised me in the best way.

There aren’t many daddy-daughter movies. Please do suggest others in the comments as we got a lovely viewing session out of this one. Logan is a fine example that I’m looking forward to showing Lyra, but it’s nice to find one that won’t horrify her.

Reynolds and Breslin are at maximum charming, and Lyra and I soon found ourselves thoroughly invested and making predictions on where each of the on-off relationships was going next. The three women, Rachel Weiz, Elizabeth Banks and Isla Fisher all have their own qualities and flaws and feel like real enough people. Fisher in particular annoyed me at first, seeming dismissive and nihilistic whilst somehow campaigning for Clinton in ’92 which somehow seems contradictory. But there’s a definite turning point with her character regarding a certain piece of classic literature which opened her up like a flower, revealing a hidden fragility. I love it when I underestimate characters, only to be proven wrong, I really do.

Honestly, thinking about it, that’s really the best of all combinations. Meeting expectations is good, but never as impressive as coming out of the blue with a home-run, failing to meet them is disappointing, and being just exactly as rubbish as expected cements a certain worldview when it comes to people. A worldview which makes those times when a person defies expectation in a good way all the more special.

There’s a neat little gag at the beginning when Reynolds gets handed an early 90s cellphone, one of those black bricks you could kill a man with. That’s a gag that will actually get funnier every year that we progress beyond that era, as phones transform from slimmer bricks to clam-shells, to smartphones, to Go-Go-Gadget phone-hands with aerials that come out of your thumb.

What this seems to have at its core is the notion that there may not be a perfect individual out there for everyone, as much as there are many compatible people you could end up quite comfortable with, and you *could* find just the right person, but it’s not the right time. And maybe it will never work out between you, and that’s OK, or maybe you’ll get together and it *still* won’t work out, and that’s also OK. Any romantic comedy drama that dispels the one-special-person-for-everyone, fate and destiny ethos is fine by me. That way of thinking puts so many people under constant pressure. If you have met and stayed with that one person, then like me, you are exceptionally lucky.

Bottom line, the world is a complicated, often-lonely place, so it’s a good idea to be nice to your exes. Unless there’s a very good reason not to, it’s a comforting thought to know there are people out there rooting for you to be happy, and they could almost certainly use that comfort too.

Author: Alex Shaw

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