A 2008 Romantic Comedy written and directed by Adam Brooks, and starring Ryan Reynolds, Elizabeth Banks, Isla Fisher, and Rachel Weisz. Reynolds plays Will Hayes, a divorced 38 year old father. His 10 year old daughter Maya (Abigail Breslin), lives with her mother but visits him twice a week. On one of these visits, after her first sex education class at school, Maya asks him to recount the story of how he and her mother met, and though initially reluctant to do so, he eventually relents and agrees to tell her the story, on the condition that he be allowed to change the names and some of the facts. The rest of the movie consists of flashbacks to Will's single life, and his relationships with three different women, his college fiancee Emily/ Sarah (Banks), his coworker April/ April (Fisher), and magazine writer Summer/ Natasha (Weisz) , intercut by occasional questions and commentary from Maya in the present. It is left to Maya (and the audience) to try and figure out which of the three Will ended up with, and thus which of the three is Maya's mother.The story begins in 1992 when Will, having just graduated college as an idealistic young aspiring politician, moves from Wisconsin to New York City to work for Bill Clinton's presidential campaign along with his best friend Russell (Derek Luke). The initial plan is for Emily to join him after a few months, at which time he intends to propose, but things don't go according to plan and Will ends up going through several relationships and years of of romantic highs and lows before he finally meets the woman he eventually marries.In other words, it's How I Met Your Mother without the zany friends hogging all the screentime and is over much quicker.The movie received positive reviews from critics, who noted its realistic portrayal of modern relationships and nuanced characters; unlike in most romantic comedies, there's no clear "good" or "bad" love interest, and whom to root for is left up to the audience.
This film contains examples of the following tropes:
Animal Metaphor: The daughter tells her divorced parents that penguins mate for life, but sometimes the husband and wife penguins get separated 'cause of their migratory patterns and sometimes they're apart for years, but they almost always find each other.
Big Applesauce: Though Will is from Wisconsin, almost the entire movie takes place in New York.
Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: There's one of each among the primary love interests - blonde (Emily), brunette (Summer), and redhead (April).
Boy Meets Girl: Averted. More realistically, it's boy meets one girl, then another, and then another, and tries (unsuccessfully) to find lasting love with each of them in turn.
Break His Heart to Save Him: Emily thinks Will would be better off not tying himself down at a young age, and refuses his marriage proposal. When he insists, she informs him that she cheated on him, and it's suggested she did so to make breaking up with him easier.
Cassandra Truth: Charlie jokingly warns Will that he shouldn't leave "Emily" alone with him. Then again, it is later implied that Emily just used him as a scapegoat for the Break His Heart to Save Him above to become easier.
Emily/Sara's voice message stating that she now lives in New york.
Code Name: Will calls his exes by alternate names, presumably to conceal their identity from his daughter who knows her mother's real name. She realizes her dad's in love with April because he doesn't give her a code name.
Cheerful Child: Maya is very cheerful and understanding for a 10 year old, despite the fact that her father tells her some rather sordid and unhappy details about his past life.
Genre Savvy: Maya knows that April's like the character in the story who's always been the friend. Then she realized she doesn't just want to be the friend. She wants to be the girlfriend, except it's too late. Maya had to explain to Will that April had come home for him.
Girl on Girl Is Hot: At one point Will and Russell discuss this after coming across a description of a lesbian kiss in Emily's diary.
Grey and Grey Morality: Unlike in most romantic comedies, none of the characters is entirely saintly or entirely psychotic in their relationships - they're all flawed but well-meaning people trying to figure out what's best for themselves.
Happily Ever After: Subverted. One of the first things the audience learns is that Will is being divorced by the woman he married.
Resurrected Romance: Ultimately subverted. Will and Emily/Sara did got back together and married, but they are now divorced.
The Reveal: Eventually, the viewer finds out which of the three women Will married.
Romantic Comedy: Though it subverts or deconstructs most of the typical tropes.
Romantic False Lead: There are several characters who would fit this role in a conventional romantic comedy, but it's consistently subverted as there is no Official Couple and they are generally (and realistically) just portrayed as other fish in the dating pool, not as obstacles to true love.
Sleazy Politician: Will's first major client, Arthur Robredo, a candidate to be governor of New York. Will also ends up feeling this way about Bill Clinton.