Apparently dependable, Ryan Reynolds stormed the rom-com genre with sudden authority. Director Adam Brooks made one style of film within his career. Absent-minded, engaged only in the slicked-back stylings of the leading man. His gormless attitude, nearly getting hit by a car and fumbling around with an MP3 player is meant to be little character flaws that make this stunning individual one of us. He gives to the poor, listens to acceptably bland music and simply enjoys the world around him, despite figuring his way through a divorce. Definitely, Maybe is a story of reflection though. Not of how Reynolds got to where he is, but to reflect on how good it was back then.
Where Will Hayes (Reynolds) was, as he explains to his daughter, was in a happier place. What spurs this conversation on is a lesson at school on sex education. Of course it is. Why else would Hayes spend time discussing anything at all with his daughter? Abigail Breslin’s early role here sees her in as merry a situation as Reynolds. They cannot deploy any depth beyond emotions of complete optimism and happiness. Even when Hayes looks as though he is on the verge of tears, his face tells a completely different story. He is glad to be alive. Why, though? Such a boring living he must have as he recounts the past sexual encounters of his middle-class misery. Elizabeth Banks and Isla Fisher also feature as his inevitable interests.
That will-they, won’t-they angle can be adapted well and certainly credible, but the actors are unconvincing here. Banks and Reynolds have little chemistry, and when Fisher is added to this mixture, nothing happens. No sparks fly, no notes of interest appear. They are just present, and Brooks’ direction does not gel them together. He steamrolls through with a heavy soundtrack of bitter, jolly notes that scratch the brain away. Brooks screeches through anything of real weight with the usual cliché notes of “I’ll never forget that day,” this and working for Clinton that. It is a thoroughly odd mixture, a sudden one, and one that doesn’t make much sense. Even when the past and present start to connect with one another, Definitely, Maybe has no merits to it. They do not make much sense. Overwhelming optimism is torturous, and Reynolds is the worst embodiment of that, as he stumbles through toilet doors and trips over for weak comedic effect.
Devoid of style and really rather grim at times, Definitely, Maybe is as non-committed as its title. “Sure,” it says, “but maybe not,” follows soon after, not just for the title, but for the interactions of every other character. They live the flash lifestyle, the hustle and bustle, and even when Hayes is alone and devoid of interactions with a loved one, he is still merry. Uncomfortably so. He is not a real being. It is an issue that has plagued Reynolds’ performances in this genre for so long. No wonder he hides behind costumes and prances around as the hero of the hour. He did so before he hit the big leagues, he just did it with less style.