Dan In Real Life
R1 - America - Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James Teitelbaum (5th April 2008).
The Film

Dan (Steve Carell) is a semi-successful writer with three daughters. His wife died four years before the film begins. Dan comes from a big family who are impossibly close and endlessly cheerful, and who have a big house in rural Rhode Island. Dan is still far from having emotionally healed from the death of his wife, and although he is doing a good job at being a dad and holding the family together, at least two of his three daughters are annoyed with him. Dan and the girls depart for a weekend with the extended family in Rhode Island.

While taking some time to himself in a local bookstore, Dan meets and falls for Anne-Marie (Juliette Binoche). They have a conversation in a cafe for a while, and Dan realizes that not only is he ready to be romantically involved with a woman again, but that he is completely in love with Anne-Marie. The only problem is that she has recently become involved with someone else. Arriving back at the big house full of seventeen other people, Dan meets his brother's (Dane Cook) new girlfriend: Anne Marie.

We now have the central conflict of the film, as Dan struggles with trying to stay away from his brother's woman while falling ever more deeply in love with her. Anne-Marie is resistant to her feelings at first, but she eventually realizes that she loves Dan too. Although the two don't ever let the rest of the family know what is going on, their feelings complicate things for everyone involved.

Although Carell is usually billed as a comedic actor, and this film is ostensibly a comedy, it plays more like a bittersweet drama, with a melancholy Carell moping his way through the film. The large and perpetually mirthful family provide a contrast to keep things from becoming too dark. There are really only a few scenes of broad comedy and only one or two scenes that border on slapstick. Otherwise the movie is basically dramatic, with the hapless sad-sack Dan just trying to make sense of his miserable life among his happy family.

Carell is good as Dan, but the movie would have sank without the consistent work of the large supporting ensemble cast (including Diane Wiest and Dane Cook). Among them all, it is Juliette Binoche who truly shines the brightest. She is always dependable, but in this case she exhibits a subtlety and complexity far beyond what the role and the film require. Having her around elevates things.

"Dan in Real Life" is a fairly predictable and occasionally borders on mawkishness, but it was put together with craft and skill, it is never dull, and it is a reasonably entertaining way to spend two hours.

Video

Presented in an aspect ratio is 1.85:1 enhanced for 16x9 televisions. The cinematography of Lawrence Sher comes across well on the DVD. His colorful and rich photography elegantly captures the lovely New England landscape, and the disc preserves this work nicely. Some of the seascapes and skies show a little bit of compression, but for the most part, the print is clean and the disc looks good. Running time is 1:38:09, divided into 14 chapters.

Audio

Audio is available in Dolby Digital 5.1 in English, French, and Spanish, subtitles are included in those languages as well. There are also subtitles in these same three languages for the director's commentary. The prominent acoustic rock score by Sondre Lerche is always present, but never steps on the dialogue. Surrounds are used for natural ambience in exterior scenes, and to enhance the sense of being surrounded by a large family in the interiors.

Extras

Buena Vista has released this film along with an audio commentary, two featurettes, deleted scenes, an outtakes reel and bonus trailers. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

Director/co-writer Peter Hedges gives a nice scene-specific audio commentary. He discusses how he was hired for the job, and how the story of the film paralleled his own life. Hedges talks about the themes, ideas, and inspiration for the film more than the technical aspects or on-set stories. He is interesting to listen to, and has great respect and reverence for his cast and crew.

"Just Like Family: the Making of Dan In Real Life" runs for 14 minutes 58 seconds and is a standard production featurette made up mainly of interview footage with Hedges. The cast and other crew members are interviewed as well, and it is all mixed with behind the scenes footage.

"Handmade Music: Creating the Score" is a featurette that runs for 9 minutes 46 seconds and begins with Hedges stating that he feels most films are overscored. Hedges and his music supervisor discuss how they found Sondre Lerche; Lerche is then interviewed too.

Outtakes reel runs for 3 minutes 25 seconds and is a gag reel of on-set bloopers.

11 deleted scenes is included with optional audio commentary by the film's director/co-writer Peter Hedges who provides a good understanding of why these scenes didn't make the cut and include:

- "Stop Growing" runs for 25 seconds, Dan tells Lilly to stop growing.
- "Picking up Lilly" runs for 40 seconds, Lilly and Dan walk down a hallway at school.
- "Near Accident" runs for 50 seconds, Dan gives his daughter a driving lesson.
- "Sandwich Monologue" runs for 53 seconds, Dan eats a sandwich in the car with his daughters.
- "End of the Lighthouse Scene" runs for 44 seconds, Dan and his kids visit a lighthouse.
- "Before the Shower Scene" runs for 37 seconds, The whole family are together in the house.
- "Food Fight and Porch Scene" runs for 4 minutes 8 seconds, Dan shoots peas out of his nose, cast laughs about it on the porch.
- "Dan and Lilly Walk" runs for 42 seconds, Lilly collects fall leaves.
- "Old Montage" runs for 3 minutes 44 seconds, an early cut of the montage scene.
- "Old Talent Show" runs for 5 minutes 36 seconds, a longer early cut of the talent show scene.
- "Old Dan Talks to Nana and Poppy" runs for 1 minutes 30 seconds, an alternate cut of Dan talking to his parents in the kitchen.

The extra features wrap up with a bonus trailer gallery that includes:

- "Disney Blu-ray" promo which runs for 1 minute 47 seconds.
- "Army Wives" which runs for 1 minute 30 seconds.
- "Becoming Jane" which runs for 2 minutes 27 seconds.
- "Ugly Betty" which runs for 32 seconds.
- "Wall-E" which runs for 1 minute 37 seconds.
- "Enchanted" which runs for 2 minutes 30 seconds.

Overall

The Film: B+ Video: A Audio: A Extras: B+ Overall: B+

 


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