Steve Carell tried to pull a Jim Carrey/Truman Show type switcheroo on us by starring in this interminable comedy-drama as a widowed advice columnist trying to raise his three daughters. During a week long stay at his parents’ cabin he ends up falling in love with his brother’s girlfriend (Juliette Binoche), which leads to various sitcom/Lifetime Channel style clichés.
I really like Carell, but even he can’t save this ho-hum flick. This is the kind of movie where if Carell just told his brother he was in love with his girlfriend at the twenty minute mark, it could’ve saved us all a lot of time. As it is though, director Peter (Pieces of April) Hedges stretches the scenes of Carell and Binoche exchanging awkward glances and uncomfortable pleasantries to the breaking point and ratchets up enough cutesy family bonding scenes to make you want to puke. (Seriously, what the fuck kind of family throws a TALENT SHOW for Christ’s sakes?)
If Hedges managed to blend the comedy with the “dramatic” portions of the film, Dan in Real Life could’ve worked, but the movie is pretty much a mess. Consider the scene where Carell and Binoche are trying to meet clandestinely in the bathroom and are interrupted by his daughter. Carell hides in the shower with the water running while Binoche talks to her. Because Carell’s daughter says nothing meaningful to Binoche, the scene just plays like a sitcom. If they actually had a touching scene together (say, she tells Binoche something she couldn’t tell her father) the scene would’ve played a lot better and given the movie the kind of tone I think the filmmakers were looking for.
Since the one-note premise (Carell is an advice columnist who needs to listen to his own advice) and cardboard cut-out supporting characters (Dane Cook is especially grating as Carell’s brother) aren’t much help, Carell has to carry this thing pretty much by himself. He isn’t bad here, but if given a better script, I’m sure he’d be capable of something worthwhile. Stick with comedy, Steve.