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'Real Life' Rarity: A Romantic Comedy for Grownups


We'll find out if the public shows enthusiasm for a movie called "Dan in Real Life." It co-stars American comedian Steve Carell and Oscar-winning French actress Juliette Binoche.

We have a review this morning from Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan.

KENNETH TURAN: "Dan in Real Life" is the rarest kind of film. It's a sophisticated, star-driven romantic comedy aimed at adults. The Dan of the title is a newspaper advice columnist stumped by his own life. He's mourning the death of his wife and raising three rambunctious daughters who are growing up faster than he'd like.

(Soundbite of movie, "Dan in Real Life")

Mr. STEVE CARELL (Actor): (As Dan Burns) Well, Marty, what else can I do for you?

Mr. FELIPE DIEPPA (Actor): (As Marty Barasco) I'd like to see your daughter, sir, if I could.

Mr. CARELL: (As Dan) Ah. Jane! Jane!

Mr. DIEPPA: (As Marty) Actually, I'm here for Cara.

Mr. CARELL: (As Dan) Nice to meet you, Marty. Come back in two years.

Ms. BRITTANY ROBERTSON (Actress): (As Cara Burns) Dad!

TURAN: Then at a bookstore, Dan, played by Carell, meets Marie, played by Binoche, and a queer and immediate attraction takes place. Imagine Dan's shock then when he goes to a big family reunion and is introduced to Marie as his brother's new serious girlfriend.

This is a classic screwball comedy predicament. Dan and Marie have to make believe they're strangers when they might be falling in love. In this misery-loves-comedy predicament, Dan even follows Marie into the bathroom to tell her how uncomfortable he is.

(Soundbite of movie, "Dan in Real Life")

Mr. CARELL: (As Dan Burns) I'm not enjoying myself and I think that as two people with principle, that we should have some ground rules, don't you?

Ms. JULIETTE BINOCHE (Actress): (As Marie) Oh, yes. Rules. Okay. Sure.

Mr. CARELL: (As Dan) Okay. All right. That's exactly what I'm talking about. No, no, no, no.

Ms. BINOCHE: (As Marie) What are you talking about?

Mr. CARELL: (As Dan) The salsa dance. This - this thing. If you could just not do that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

TURAN: Many of the good things in "Dan" came from director Peter Hedges, who wrote the novel and screenplay for "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" Hedges specializes in reality-based comedy with a hidden heart. He doesn't take shortcuts with people and he doesn't let humor interfere with emotional complexity.

Carell, one of today's hottest comedy actors, handles the transition to romantic lead with grace. Though Binoche is usually found in more ethereal roles, like "The English Patient," she successfully made herself into an everyday version of the woman of every man's dreams.

Both Carell and Binoche were determined that there being nothing cute about the situation, and there is not. What we get instead is what Marie is looking for in that bookstore - something human and funny that could sneak up and surprise you, which is just what "Dan in Real Life" beautifully does.

INSKEEP: Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Kenneth Turan is the film critic for the Los Angeles Times and NPR's Morning Edition, as well as the director of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes. He has been a staff writer for the Washington Post and TV Guide, and served as the Times' book review editor.