Follow TV Tropes


Film / Definitely, Maybe

Go To

A 2008 Romantic Comedy written and directed by Adam Brooks. It stars Ryan Reynolds, Elizabeth Banks, Isla Fisher, Rachel Weisz, and Kevin Kline.

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.

It all 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 (Banks), his college girlfriend, 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 multiple relationships and years of romantic highs and lows before settling down with the woman he eventually marries. In addition to Emily, the women who come into his life are April (Fisher), a co-worker from the campaign, and Summer (Weisz), Emily's former roommate and a magazine writer who is in a relationship with her much older thesis tutor (Kline) when Will meets her; it is left to Maya (and the audience) to try to determine which of the three Will ended up with, and thus which of the three is Maya's mother.

This film contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Actor Allusion:
    • There is a shot of "Two Guys" pizza. Ryan Reynolds was in Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place.
    • Hampton, played by Kevin Kline, telling Hayes to be masculine might get the audience a throwback to the wonderful "How to be a man" scene from In & Out.
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: Recognizing the gesture is how Maya works out which of the women in the story is her mother.
  • Amicably Divorced: Will and Maya's mother (Sarah/Emily) are on good terms.
  • And Starring: Rachel Weisz in the OBB.
  • 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.
  • Black Best Friend: Russell and Will have been friends for a long time.
  • 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.
  • Business Trip Adultery: While working on the Clinton campaign in New York, Will's girlfriend cheats on him with his roommate.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Emily/Sarah's Affectionate Gesture to the Head.
    • Emily/Sarah's voice message stating that she now lives in New York.
    • April's Jane Eyre book signed by her late father. It becomes the last piece to make Hayes and April's relationship fruitful at the end.
  • Chick Magnet: Both Will and Hampton.
  • 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.
  • Comic Role Play: Will practices his proposal speech with April standing in for Emily. The speech:
    Will: "Will you, um, marry me?"
  • Divorce Is Temporary: Thankfully averted. Maya eventually accepts that her parents aren't the OTP.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Will starts to drink heavily after finding out that April is dating a new guy at one point.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After Will has been divorced by Sarah (Emily), it's suggested at the end that he may get together with April, after much heartache and years of not even speaking to each other.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Maya, when she figures out that Emily (aka Sarah) is her mother.
  • Experimented in College: While Summer is an admitted, dyed-in-the-wool bisexual, this was Emily's take on their time together.
  • Falling-in-Love Montage: Will and Summer in tune of the latter's "I've Gotta Crush on You".
  • First Girl Wins: Maya's mother ends up being Emily, with whom Will once again gets together after years apart. Subverted in that the two are now divorced.
  • Foreshadowing: Take a look at Maya's tally sheet. Pay very close attention to the color she uses...
  • 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 Summer's diary.
  • Graceful Ladies Like Purple: April constantly seems to favor this.
  • 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.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Will seems to prefer April to the other two.
  • How We Got Here: The framing device of the movie.
  • In Medias Res: Sort of. The movie is a subversion of the typical romantic comedy plotline in that there is no neat resolution to Will's pursuit of love at the end.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: As Will tries to argue to April that Gov. Clinton is great to women, the Gennifer Flowers scandal unfolds on the television behind him.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Summer. It's why she and Will break up. She targets the political candidate he is working for.
  • Ironic Echo: "We've all gotta make copies sometime; your time is now" "Oh, very funny. You're really funny! What a dick."
  • It Will Never Catch On: During the '92 election, Will and his fellow campaigners watch a TV interview with the president's adviser and son George W. Bush, and are not impressed. Russell says, "If this guy's smart, he'll go back to baseball."
  • Kavorka Man: Summer's journalism professor, Hampton Roth, who despite being nearly sixty is quite popular with female graduate students.
  • Kick the Dog: Despite Will begging her not to, Summer goes ahead with the news story about his boss. She seems to show no regret for him losing his job and reputation from the scandal, even though he broke up with her. Later, Summer is pregnant and hints she wants to reconcile with Will, despite everything. When he refuses to bite, she decides to introduce him to one of her exes, realizing she went too far.
  • Last Girl Wins: Subverted. In fact, his relationship with Summer ended in a very bad way, though they later reconciled.
  • Last Minute Hook Up: It's implied that Will gets back with April in the present.
  • Little Black Dress: Emily is wearing one during the climactic scene. Oddly, Summer never wore any of these.
  • Long-Distance Relationship: Will and Emily, initially.
  • Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: April. Also Will to an extent.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: April is set up as this, and Will seems to view her as such at first, though it's ultimately subverted as she turns out to be a person with a three dimensional personality and needs of her own. Summer also has elements of the character type.
  • Maybe Ever After: At the end of the movie, Will finally gets together with April. Or maybe not. It's definitely implied that they reconcile as friends, but beyond that, it's left ambiguous. Although the fact that it ends with her leaping into his arms and kissing him implies they do get together.
  • Memento MacGuffin: April is searching for a copy of Jane Eyre that was given to her by her late father shortly before he died, which plays a rather important role in the plot. In an interesting parallel, the book serves as the only remaining link from April to her father, and later on Will admits that it also serves as the only remaining link from him to her.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: As a Call-Back to the explanation that casual sex is "rehearsing" for making babies, it's implied that Will's been using that word a fair bit in his relation of the story;
    Maya: I can't believe Emily rehearsed with Charlie!
  • The '90s: Much of the story takes place in this era.
  • No Man of Woman Born: At her baby shower, Summer tells Will she wants him to meet one of her exes as she thinks they will get along. Summer being bisexual, the ex turns out to be Emily. Will does get along with her, marrying her and fathering Maya.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Two:
    • Rachel Weisz, a little, particularly in the "I've Got A Crush On You" scene.
    • Isla Fisher's accent comes and goes in each scene.
  • Parental Sexuality Squick: During the opening scene where Will picks up his daughter just after they had sex ed, one girl can be heard screaming at her mother that the deed happened and that the girl now hates her mother.
  • Resurrected Romance: Ultimately subverted. Will and Emily/Sarah did get back together and married, but they are now divorced.
  • 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.
  • Slow Clap: When Will manages to fill a whole table at the fundraiser: initiated by the Governor, no less. This is where his career starts to take off.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Emily revealed she cheated on Will and wasn't ready to marry him. It seems they can get over that rough patch a few years later when they reconcile and have matured. Not so much in the present; she and Will divorce on realizing they were incompatible.
    • Summer wrecked Will's career with her article, without caring for the consequences when he was about to propose to her. She later appears pregnant with another man's child, leading to Maya to worry that Will might have gotten back together with her and he's not her actual father. We find out that Summer had the sense to realize she went too far and instead wants to set up Will with one of her exes.
  • Title Drop: April pretends to be Emily to help Will rehearse his proposal speech at one point - it's her reply when he asks her to marry him.
  • Tying Up Romantic Loose Ends: Either subverted or averted entirely, depending on the character.
  • UST: Mostly between Will and April, the only one of the three with whom Will doesn't have a romantic relationship at some point.
  • Wham Shot: When Will returned April's book, the camera zooms in on the dedication from her father and we see that her name is indeed April.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist:
    • Will is at first, about both love and politics.
    • Maya's heavy-handed narrative about penguins mating for life, and what she hopes it will mean for her divorced parents, falls here too. Maya being a naive preteen, she fits this pretty generally.
  • You, Get Me Coffee: Will's job at the campaign office in New York.