Dan in Real Life

After meeting a girl in a book store, Steve Carell says to brother Dane Cook,
“I think this girl is already taken.”
“Not my problem.”
“Yes it is.”

Thus sets the premise of Dan in Real Life, about during a stay at the family cottage how an widower advice columnist falls in love – with his brother’s girlfriend. Steve Carell works up once of his best performances in the new romantic dramedy, Dan in Real Life. When you consider how terrible his recent film Evan Almighty was, you really appreciate how natural and easy Carell acts – and that goes for the rest of the cast. Juliette Binoche, an incredible actress, is given a surprisingly deep role, as far as romantic comedy roles go for women nowadays.

Dan Burns is an widower advice columnist, with three beautiful daughters and one big family. So for the weekend they go and stay at the family cottage, and he goes to a bookstore. Then he meets Marie. They flirt, they talk, they eat. They seem almost made for each other…Then they have to go. Then, back at the house, Dan’s bro Mitch introduces Dan to his girlfriend. Marie.

It’s a very indie-style, romantic, sweet, funny movie. The naturality of the performances is well to praise, and the script is witty and funny. It’s really a rarity, especially when this time of year we get pigeon-holed with R-rated dramas, that we get a movie as honest and open as this.

It lacks that traditional Steve Carell edge, but makes up for it in it’s humor, sweetness, wit, and performances. A-

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Cate Blanchett reprises her Golden-Globe winning role in a commanding performance as Queen Elizabeth I in this sequel, Elizabeth: The Golden Age. The 1998 semi-classic put Cate Blanchett on the map as a real actress. 9 years later, Cate Blanchett has established herself as one of the greatest, most versatile actresses of our time and thus returns to this sequel. And what we get is kind of a mixed bag.

1585. Spain and England are on the brink of war. Catholic Spain sees Protestant England as a threat, and thus, plots to overtake the throne and make it their land. In England, a sailor named Walter Raleigh presents several new goods from the New World, including gold, potatoes, and tobacco. The queen immediately falls in love with Raleigh, however it is terrible for timing. Catholics plot an attempt on the Queen’s life, in the hope that Spanish correspondent Queen Mary of Scots will take over. History would call it the Babington Plot. But Spain amasses a huge armada to attack England. Shall Spain triumph and England crumble? Or will England hold off the massive army?

The problem with this movie is it’s basically a 2-hour segment of a 20-hour movie. The first movie was the first chapter, and now this sequel is the seventh. What happened in between they assume us to know, as it is a part of history. But still, I wish they filled the blanks in better. The action scenes show us what happened, but almost never show why. And some of the dialogue is just downright wooden.

But here’s the upside. Cate Blanchett is amazing, repeat, AMAZING, as Queen Elizabeth. (again) She commands the screen with such grace and prescence…It truly feels like you’re watching her. Clive Owen is very good as the explorer Walter Raleigh, and Samantha Morton is excellent in a few scenes as Mary of Scots. And the costumes, sets, cinematography, and design is downright beautiful.

Overall, in order to understand this, you should probably watch the first and do some reading on Queen Elizabeth I. Remember, Elizabeth I & II are partly fictionalized, so don’t expect supreme accuracy. The muddled plot and dialogue are saved by the design and acting…But just barely. B-