Dan in Real Life (2007)


Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Awkward and Genuine

Note: There was once a time that I promised myself that I would not review this, for fear of the rating I would give it. This my favorite movie of all time, for quite a few reasons. I know it’s not the best movie in the world, but I personally love it. I will review this not as a professional critic, but only as a fan of the movie.

In 2007, a movie came out that changed everything for me. This was before I began reviewing movies, but there is a good chance that this film is what made me appreciate movies enough to actually begin reviewing them. Up to this point in 2007, Jim Carrey was my all-time favorite movie actor. There was absolutely no persuading me otherwise, I would (and still will) watch anything Carrey does. However, this 2007 movie changed my favorite actor from Jim Carrey to Steve Carell. There is now nothing I won’t watch of Steve’s, because unlike Carrey, Steve Carell actually has a decent range of acting, he has done a lot of diverse work.  Dan in Real Life for others may be a typical comedy, but for me, it struck a chord.

Dan Burns (Carell) is your average, everyday single father of three. His day job is an advice columnist for his local newspaper. His three girls are also experiencing life one day at a time. Just as he gets word from his publisher that he may be up for syndication, Dan and his three girls go to Rhode Island for a family reunion vacation. The second day that Dan is on vacation, he heads to a local bookstore, where he meets the love of his life, Marie (Juliette Binoche), the only problem is that she is taken…by who he would soon find out is his brother. Let hilarity and awkward tension ensue.

Before I say why I personally love this film, let me first explain why you should. The title to this film doesn’t lie, it is a guy named Dan in a presentation of unadulterated life. It is really genuine and extremely believable. The awkwardness that Carell brings is so true to life, and he does a brilliant job fulfilling his role. The role, by the way, is perfect for Carell, and it is one of those performance that make you forget who he really is in real life, if only for the remainder of the film. If awkward humor is your type of thing, you should definitely not miss this one.

Now, for why I love this film. Generally speaking, I love it because it is one of the films that I have emotionally connected with on more than one level. I have lost track of how many times I have actually seen the movie, and for me…it never gets old. If I’m feeling down, I watch it. If I’m feeling happy, I watch it…it’s great for any mood. Now I’ll tell you why I’m so connected to it.

Since the first time I saw this movie, I said out loud, “That’s me in twenty years”, and 6 years ago, that’s about right, and I can still see me moving in that direction. This guy is a writer, check, and single dad, check, of three daughters, 1/3 check, and socially awkward, check. The way that he responds to jealousy or awkward tension is exactly how I would in that situation. I wasn’t a father, or even close to being a father when this movie first came out, but I wasn’t surprised to see how my life still went in that direction. My daughter is too young for me to know how I would react to her asking me about boys or driving, but again…the way Steve Carell responds in this film is almost a vision from a fortune teller, I can see myself living this guy’s life.

Next, the music is awesome. It’s not a typical cheesy musical score that you find in these movies, it’s songs, mostly by acoustic guitar, all sung by the same guy (Sondre Lerche). They are catchy, they are relevant, and they match so well to each scene…I can almost say that half of the reason I love this movie is also because it has an amazing soundtrack. The acting is great, the chemistry is off the charts, there just isn’t anything bad I can even say about it.

It is movies like this that have the ability to give me hope. In a way, it’s inspirational. This guy may be practically twenty years older than me, and things haven’t changed all that much in that amount of time, but after learning from one’s mistakes, he finally figures out what he needs to figure out in order to grow up, get closure from the woman he lost so many years ago. Look to the future. And it’s no picnic, life sucks and it’s awkward, but every now and again, life works exactly as it should, and makes everything worth it.

I think when it comes to your favorite movie, you can’t just pick a movie that is really well done on a technical level. While yes, I couldn’t find anything wrong with the great film that is Inception, giving it a perfect score. Dan in Real Life is a movie that spoke to me on a really deep level, which is something that Inception has no chance against. Inception is cool, really cool, and is done really well, but if I moved to a new house, and was only allowed to own one film, it would be Dan in Real Life, hands down.

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