In Dan in Real Life Steve Carell leaves behind his comedic personae to once again play a melancholic 40-something type character, as he so brilliantly did in Little Miss Sunshine. This time Carell is Dan, a widower with three daughters, who while on a family weekend meets Marie (Juliette Binoche), falls madly for her and then discovers she is his brother’s new girlfriend.
Carell portrays Dan’s sadness and loneliness superbly and is completely endearing as that one person in so many families who does not really fit in and has to uncomfortably watch from a distance as everybody else has fun. However, the film lacks tension and this is mainly because all the characters are essentially likeable. Even during scenes of conflict, overt displays of emotions or awkward social situations, nobody ever responds in a way that seems unreasonable, unprovoked or inappropriate. Dan in Real Life is a pleasant film but it lacks the dark comedic bite and pathos of other family dynamic films such as Little Miss Sunshine, The Royal Tenenbaums and even Meet the Parents. See it for Carell but do not expect anything uproariously funny or insightful.
Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 296, 2008