Dan in Real Life is a Thanksgiving Feast of Love
A film that has always brought me comfort and been a charming autumnal rewatch in my rotation
As with many other yearly traditions, our current situation won’t allow us to congregate or travel as we may have intended. Whether a familial get-together that is heartwarming or a bit tense due to conflicting beliefs at the dinner table, many are canceling their plans for socially distanced get-togethers. Lucky for us, there are movies we can watch that can soften the blow a bit.
I’ll be honest, my family was never big on the holiday. It was always the three of us, we’d eat at the dinner table for the only time all year, and watch old movies in our pajamas all day long. Same with Christmas, except we’d swap the turkey for Chinese takeout.
Regardless of Covid restrictions, Dan in Real Life has always brought me comfort and been a charming autumnal rewatch in my rotation. The movie is set somewhere near the ocean in Rhode Island and mostly takes place in a huge house with a lot of bodies under one roof.
Dan, played by the uber-lovable Steve Carrell, is a widow and father of three girls. He meets an attractive and intelligent woman in a bookstore on his way to his family’s house to later realize she is the latest girlfriend of his younger brother, played by Dane Cook in a time that Dane Cook popped up in a bunch of movies. Drama, of course, ensues
Dan’s middle daughter, though wildly overdramatic the only way teenagers can be is in the throes of young love. Her fiery dedication and all-consuming emotions serve as a counterpoint to Dan’s hopeful and cautious approach to love after losing his wife.
The real heart of the movie lies in the long list of different types of love emphasized by the film. While the love story between Steve Carrell and Juliette Binoche’s Marie is perhaps the central focus, the familial love that envelops it is what makes the film so special.
The family is sugary sweet, there’s no denying that. There is an overreaching theme that even if things happen between them that is “dramatic” (like when Dan takes some kids out and doesn’t tell their parents that they’ve left or where they’re going) everything is going to be okay. They have a family talent show, for goodness sake. I mean, who does that?
The tender moments and highlights of parental love (Dan as father and son, both), sibling love (both of Dan’s daughters and Dan and his brother), new love, old and lost love, young love… they all found in this charming film.
2020 has been a year of doom-scrolling and trying to make and maintain connections in the midst of a global crisis. That said, no matter what happens around us there are good bits. They may be small or feel far away, but they’re there and they’ll still be there when this is all over.
I implore you to watch Dan in Real Life if you’re quarantined and stuck with family and they’re driving you up a wall, you don’t have a great relationship with your family, or you are heartbroken that you won’t be able to see yours this year. It is cute and warm and enjoyable. It’s not a holiday film, per se, but it kind of is.
And, of course, whenever anyone is being a raging jerk just call them a murderer of love without explanation. They might not get it, but you will.
I write about romantic comedies once a month over at romcomfest.com!
They and the other columnists are amazing.
Thanks for reading — Sending you all love and calm in a difficult time. xx