Screenwriter Peter Hedges (About a Boy) also takes the director’s helm in this touching family filled comedy headlined by the multi-talented Steve Carell (Evan Almighty, The Office). As Dan Burns, a widowed newspaper columnist, Carell enjoys an amazing supporting cast that strengthens his character.
Dan has three daughters. His youngest, Lily, played by Marlene Lawston (Flight Plan) can predictably pull the heartstrings while the oldest and wisest daughter, Jane, wants her father’s trust, especially when driving. “If you don’t let me, I’ll never learn,” she says to her Dad. “But if I let you, you might not live,” says Dan. Brittany Robertson plays Dan’s daughter Cara who’s madly in love with a boy at school, which predictably drives a protective father mad as well.
Oscar winner Juliette Binoche (The English Patient, Chocolat) plays Marie, an extraordinary woman who comes into Dan’s life as he travels to his parents’ house for an annual family vacation. The chemistry between Carell and Binoche works well while anchoring the romantic elements of the film. Comedian extraordinaire Dane Cook (Employee of the Month, Good Luck Chuck) plays Dan’s brother Mitch while Broadway star Norbert Leo Butz plays Dan’s other brother, Clay. Their hilarious song collaboration, “Ruthie Pigface Draper”, is a great testament to how all the entire supporting cast contributes so much into the film.
Dan’s parents are played by accomplished actors John Mahoney (Frasier) and Dianne Wiest (Parenthood). Other family members include Eileen, played by recent Oscar nominee Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone), who could’ve had a bigger part, but fills her role well among the eclectic Burns family. The talented Emily Blunt (Devil Wears Prada) also plays a key role in the romantic elements of the film. Great music, mostly from Sondre Lerche, complements a low stress storyline where the only real antagonists to Dan are himself… and maybe the local cop.
Viewers get even more quality entertainment in the extra features. Filmmakers describe their amazing musical collaboration with Norwegian singer Sondre Lerche, who appears in the ending credit sequence. “Modern Nature” is a standout song among several great pieces from Lerche that closely reflect Dan’s turmoil and triumph throughout the film. Most of the other music includes subtle themes occasionally spread throughout the 98-minute running time.
Other extras include 11 deleted scenes, with or without commentary, and full-length audio commentary from Peter Hedges. Audio options and subtitles are available in English, Spanish, and French. The screenwriters, Pierce Gardner and Hedges, describe their process of creating “comedy tempered with pain and sadness” that’s original enough so audiences don’t anticipate the laughs (they succeed). One of the funniest lines in the film (at a dinner table scene) wasn’t planned in the script. A highly recommended film with recommended DVD extras. Rated PG-13 for some innuendo (i.e. references to Dan’s plumbing).
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler