Rating: 4 Pulses
Steve Carell, Juliette Binoche and Dane Cook
Directed by Peter Hedges
This must be what people mean when they refer to a film as heartwarming. It doesn’t happen often, but I have to admit this movie found a hidden sweet spot within me.
Carell plays the titular Dan, a widower raising three daughters while writing an advice column for his local paper.
It is obvious Dan is a creature of habit?his eyes open before dawn, he methodically cuts the crust off the girls’ sandwiches, answers his daily letters and tends to the house with the indifference of one who’s done these menial chores a thousand times.
And every year, he loads his daughters into the car and heads to Rhode Island for a weekend with the rest of the family, a gaggle of siblings and his parents.
With syndication a possibility and a chance meeting with an alluring woman in a bookstore, Dan’s monotonous life seems destined for a metamorphosis.
At least until he discovers his mystery woman is actually his brother Mitch’s (Cook) new girlfriend and she’s come to spend the weekend, too.
The movie has the essence of a three-act play with its witty dialogue, minimal sets and moral crises and it’s really nice to see Carell’s nuanced performance as a character with substance again, and not the blundering fool he assumes for most roles.
Dan is the most authentic character he’s played and never is he over the top or incredibly awkward; just a lonely man in a bit of a conundrum, trying to do the best he can.
He is supported by a strong ensemble, including Dianne Wiest and John Mahoney as the wise parents of this off-kilter brood. Also notable is its feel good soundtrack and score by Sondre Lerche.
Though Dan lacks the edginess of Little Miss Sunshine or, say, Hedges’ prior work (Pieces of April), its sweetness makes it cozy and accessible to the masses.