Hollywood Hues
Fair farce

Ervell E. Menezes finds Dan in Real Life racy and entertaining

Steve Carrell with Juliette Binoche in Dan in Real Life
Steve Carrell with Juliette Binoche in Dan in Real Life

Giving advice is one thing but heeding it is quite another and at times it can mean "physician heal thyself." This is what happens when widower agony aunt columnist Dan Burns (Steve Carrell) finds himself in precisely such a predicament and hence the title Dan in Real Life, an entertaining farce, even though it tends to get out of hand at times.

Dan projects a deeply humane image in the newspaper but in real life, or more accurately at home, he is a strict disciplinarian and bearing the brunt of his unbending rules are his three daughters Jane (Allison Pill), Cara (Brittany Robertson) and Lilly (Marlene Lawston). But when Cara experiences her first love pangs and insists that she "is in love, is in love, is in love," he dismisses it as infatuation.

It is a witty screenplay by Peter Hedges and Pierce Gordon and the plot weaves its way around a plethora of characters, helping hold the attention span but most of the action takes place at Danís parents house at a family reunion, which seems to be the new setting for Hollywood comedies.

Director Hedges keeps cutting away from scene to scene to provide dramatic relief. Visual relief comes in the form of some soothing seaside scenes where cinematographer Lawrence Sher simply freaks out on.

The crux of the film is that Dan runs into Marie (Juliette Binoche) in a local bookshop and flirts with her not knowing that she is his brother Mitchís (Dane Cook) girlfriend which he realises only when she arrives at the family reunion with Mitch. Itís a major problem and they try to conceal the fact that they met earlier. This leads to some hilarious situations, like the shower sequence, but some of the action borders on the bawdy with the usual but avoidable Americanisms.

Then you have Danís mum (Dianne Wiest) arranging a date for him with his ex-flame Ruthie (Emily Blunt), known as Pig-face. Now sheís anything but that, in fact a hottie and dancing to Fever is one of the highlights of the film, apart from Ruthie having a part to play in the end. So its 90 minutes of racy entertainment. The humour may not be A-grade but it is workable with Steve Carall displaying a clear talent for comedy. He seems to have modelled his acting on Alan Alda who is memorable for his portrayal of Hawkeye in the TV serial M.A.S.H and also looks a bit like him but heíll have to come a long way before one can compare him to Alda.

French actress Juliette Binoche now seems to be giving more evidence of her histrionic skills after being known for her steamy love scenes and gave evidence of this in Anthony Mingellaís swansong Breaking and Entering.
Dane Cook as Mitch is rather patchy but it is partly due to the rather thin character he plays. The children are competent, especially Britanny Robertson as the rebellious Cara and Marlene Lawston as the cute, adorable Lilly. Dianne Wiest is yet another case of what they do with comely actresses when they get on in years and look healthier. In sum, Dan in Real Life is watchable, at least most of it.