Definitely, Maybe
An Argument for the Simplest Option

Occam’s razor—or the Law of Parsimony—counsels us to expect nature to use the simplest possible means to any given end. However, when it comes to changing the world, or the structure of society, I tend to discard this theory and go for the grandiose. I try to fight for change on a large scale, forgetting that a more manageable level of complexity is preferred.

Adam Brooks’ film Definitely, Maybe, on the other hand, takes the age-old question “Why do marriages fail?” and tosses it into the larger question: “Why does any relationship fail?” He comes up with a pretty direct answer.

Will Hayes loves his daughter. The highlight of his week is the occasion when he picks his daughter up from school and spends the day with her. Will and his wife, though, are getting a divorce. Will’s daughter wants to know why; she also wants to know if her Dad has ever been in love. When Will declares “of course,” Maya challenges him to tell the story of his loves, but to change the names to see if she can identify her mother in the story.

Ryan Reynolds as Will in Definitely, Maybe

Definitely, Maybe is a well told story. I enjoyed seeing Will go from an idealistic golden boy from Indiana to a realistic, yet still sensitive dad with a divorce decree.

Will leaves his home and childhood sweetheart to go to New York to work for the Bill Clinton Presidential campaign. Will puts his heart and soul into making sure his hero is elected. After all, Clinton is on the side of the small guy. Will maintains his integrity to his girl friend despite opportunities to be unfaithful. The story progresses—and Will regresses as the foibles of his human interactions become, well.. all too human. Will’s idealism is challenged all the way up his societal sphere of influence. Everything from private and seemingly-innocuous flirtations to large public humiliations prove to Will that his idealism is nothing more than that.

Will went to Washington to change the world. He wanted to change society for what he thought was better. He was a morally good person, and he had all the right ideals. He believed that he could have a hand in change if he supported the right candidate. He believed he could change the morality of the people he was around. He believed the world would be a better place when he helped Bill Clinton get elected.

We all know the large public humiliation. We see Will refocus his change-wreaking tactics to ever smaller and smaller targets, until finally he realizes the only corner of the universe he has any control over is himself.

The conclusion is: Because relationships involve people, and people are flawed, relationships are flawed. A larger target includes an unmanageable number of flawed individuals in the bull’s eye. Despite the best hopes and propositions of all strata of society, human beings are just plain fallible.

One of the frustrations of human nature is that some of us underestimate ourselves. Others over-estimate. Some of us have bad habits that, in excess, drive us away from our circle. Others have good habits that do the same. So ultimately, we really should not put too high an expectation on anyone.

Perhaps we should just enjoy life, and pay more attention to what is really happening inside us individually. Rather than trying to change the world, change yourself. After all, isn’t that a more appropriate and manageable effort anyway?

Definitely, Maybe is Rated PG-13 “for sexual content, including some frank dialogue, language and smoking.” What? This movie has no nudity, only a smattering of swearing. It actually shows a good relationship between a dad and his daughter, and the divorce appears somewhat congenial. But smoking? Oh my! (Has anyone else noticed an increase in the number of smokers in film recently? Smoking denotes the new villain. How has this communicated the dangers of smoking?) PG-13 describes the target market, not the sin count.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Mike attended a promotional screening of Definitely, Maybe.