Dan in Real Life

29 Nov

“Dan in Real Life” begins in a Full House reminiscent way. The main character Dan, played by Steve Carrell, is a widower of four years, left to raise three girls of various stages of life. However, if you’re expecting the same feel-good simplistic relationships of the late eighties and early nineties’ television show, then you’re in for a surprise. This film has it’s own unique, truer-to-life model of father-daughter relationships.

There’s the all-seeing wise oldest daughter, the melodramatic teenager, and the least critical and mostly delightful nine-year old. Dan clearly loves his daughters and does everything he can to provide for then but is unable to accept their coming of age. As a result, the more he tries to hold on to them, the more they drift out of his grasp.  Despite the topsy-turvy family dynamics, the relationship with his children is not the primary plot of this film.

When Dan takes his daughters up to a cabin for a three-day visit with family, he has just pulled his over-emotional teenaged daughter Clara away from the “love” of her life. He scoffs at her saying she is in love after only three weeks and explains to her she can’t know after such a short period. For girls young and old, the scenes between daughter Clara and father will remain eerily reminiscent of their own fathers.

Girls will be even more pleased to see that Dan discovers the hypocrisy of his tidings to his daughter when he falls deeply for his brother’s girlfriend, Marie, played by Juliette Binoche, within only three days. Although the budding relationship between Dan and Marie is entertaining, it seems almost too simple at times. Dan and Marie clearly belong together, and his brother, significantly less intelligent, is not a good match for Marie. The relationship is significantly less complex and interesting than the one of Dan with his children, or other family members for that matter.

While most characters are deeply dynamic, Dan’s brother, Mitch, played by Dane Cook, is almost too shallow a character to be believable. Although the character has emotional moments, they remain crude and unsophisticated. There are times when scenes between the two brothers could have been much more fleshed out but whether this is due to script failure or Dane Cook’s bad acting, the relationship remained disappointingly superficial.

While Dan is conflicted over his feelings, the humorous sub-plot of his over-emotional middle-child, Cara, keeps the audience entertained and the movie from being too one dimensional. Notable lines include Cara’s passionate declare of her father being a “murderer of love,” and her exclamation that her father didn’t have to worry because when it came to sex, her boyfriend was the one who wanted to wait. Steve Carrell’s hilarious retort was, “what about that sentence is supposed to give me comfort?” The amusingly realistic portrayal of father-daughter relationships gives this film an edge over other too-cheesy romantic comedies and makes it definitely worth watching.

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