I went into this movie with low expectations. As a rule, romcoms typically fall in the middle of my rating spectrum. They’re good, rarely great, but also usually not horrible. I’m happy to report that I found myself pleasantly surprised by the film. It was nice to see Steve Carell playing a normal, relatable human being for once.
Dan in Real Life is a playful twist on the “mistaken identity” plot line. Dan, the widowed father of three, played by Steve Carell, meets and hits it off with an intriguing woman named Marie, played by Juliette Binoche. Returning to his family’s home Dan soon discovers Marie is already there, and dating his brother, Dane Cook. Er… I mean Mitch.
The plot feels Shakespearian, as Dan does a poor job of hiding his feelings from the rest of the family and Marie becomes increasingly disinterested in Mitch.
Some people claim humor comes from discomfort, and this is most certainly the case for Dan in Real Life. The family dynamics between siblings, children, and parents, along with the conflicting agendas of everyone involved create a world rife with humor.
Though the film lacks subtly and is easily predictable, the story is entertaining. Most of the characters have arcs and watching them learn and grow is a cathartic experience. The parallels between Dan and Marie’s relationship and Cara (Dan’s middle daughter) and Marty (Cara’s boyfriend) are contrasted with the Dan’s advice/rules for his daughter and personal actions with regard to Marie.
A story like this could easily end as a tragedy: the family ripped apart by lying and betrayal. But in a twist that would make Gilbert and Sullivan proud, both Mitch and Dan find love at the end of the movie.
Ethics of lying to family members aside, Dan in Real Life is a feel good movie and one that definitely surpasses the test of time.