Saturday, August 16, 2008

Dan in Real Life

2007, US, directed by Peter Hedges

Peter Hedges' fascination with family dynamics surfaces again in Dan in Real Life, although here he's primarily dissecting an actual group of relatives rather than observing the ways in which people create new and unique quasi-family groups as they leave their childhoods behind (with "real" and constructed families sometimes clashing). Hedges has a pretty sharp eye for much of the minutiae of family life - that rich texture of events and memories, highs and lows - and he captures the dynamics of a sprawling, lazy, sometimes tense family gathering with considerable skill.

It's hard not to see something of Steve Carell's character from The Office, Michael Scott, in Dan - while the latter isn't anywhere near as Crass as Michael, he does have that knack for saying utterly the wrong thing, and transforming himself into a social outcast even amongst those who should be most willing to tolerate his foibles. Juliette Binoche, too, is hardly stretched in playing the beguiling European stunner, smart, sexy, and capable of turning everyone's world on its head, and yet despite a degree of typecasting she's ultimately as bewitching as the movie needs her to be, convincing as the kind of person who could snap a man like Dan out of a profound funk. In the end, there's nothing all that new in Hedges' film (plot twists show up on cue) but the fine performances - including from the young actresses who play Dan's daughters - make the gathering worth sticking with.


Anonymous said...

Please allow me to state in a highly academic, critical fashion: this movie stunk. Not even the presence of a French icon could save it. How are we supposed to believe that she would fall for Dane Cook('s character)? I found no evidence for redeeming qualities worthy of Binoche-ness.

But I still like Steve Carell. :)

Gareth said...

Movie couples are way less strange than real couples; that did not for a moment distract me. Plus, I still got to watch la Binoche.


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