Monday, March 24, 2008

Dan in Real Life

Dear Dan in Real Life,

How do you do it? I mean, really in real life? There you are, a widower with three daughters and the worse problem you have is that your middle child is wildly in love with her boyfriend who is not pressuring her for sex and your oldest is desperate to drive your car. Meanwhile, you have this large and welcoming family who gather every Thanksgiving at Mom and Dad's seemingly enormous beach house on Rhode Island where everyone has an act for the family entertainment, and the only bummer is that you have to sleep in the basement with the noisiest drier ever invented.

So, to get you out the house and out of your daughters' hair for a while, your wise old mother sends you down to the village where there is a book-store that would not look out of place in New York in which you meet this alluring stranger who captivates you so much that you end up taking her out to a local cafe and pouring out your life story.

Of course, you don't know that the first woman you feel attracted to in the four years after your wife's death just happens to be the latest girlfriend of your narcissistic younger brother, who has previously only dated women with IQs equivalent to their bra size, or that it is not only you that is instantly infatuated with her, but your entire family who descend upon her like a host of blood-sucking Oprahs.

And, being an advice columnist, and therefore an expert at solving such inter-personal relationships, you decide not to 'fess up to the family but to act like a love-sick teenager thus acting as a perfect role model for your middle daughter and to cause scene after scene. Then to cap it all, your parents decide to stage an intervention in the form of a blind date with the ugly duckling of the village who turns out not just to be a saintly physician who works with disfigured children but is also drop-dead gorgeous and uninhibited, to boot. Unfortunately, you decide to reward your good luck by trying to make your brother's girlfriend jealous (because you have of course gone on a double-date) with the worst display of bar-room dancing since, well, since the beginning of time.

But, of course, because this is real life, it all ends happily ever after - you get the girl after your daughters exhibit how far they have gotten over their mother's death by helping you find their soon to be stepmother, your brother, having slugged you in reel two, ends up dating the sexy doctor and you get the new syndicated job that you had done such a good job of screwing up.

Somehow, just like those screwball comedies of the 30s and 40s, you manage to make this all seem perfectly natural and entertaining - but how do you do it in real life?

Yours mystifiedly,



First of all, it helps to have Juliette Binoche as the love interest - she can convey so much with just a look. Then, of course it helps to have Steve Carell doing just enough to make himself the kind of guy that would cause Binoche to gaze at him screwing things up and still want to marry him. Mind you this is the woman who comes into the family as the date of Dane Cook so her judgment is somewhat suspect. Maybe her English isn't quite as good as it seems. Then there are Dianne Wiest and John Mahoney enjoying themselves as the parents who, seemingly, can afford the kind of house that you need to start a software company to own, Emily Blunt sacrificing herself for the sake of the plot and by the end you can even bear to see Dane Cook on the screen without your hackles rising. Maybe Peter Hedges isn't the new Cukor but he proves that Pieces of April was not a one-off

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