Dan in Real Life (Hedges, 2007)

Peter Hedges’ dramedy about a columnist/widower (Steve Carell) attempting to maneuver around the pain while losing control of his three daughters works best as a singular character study of a man in transition. Carell’s good natured Dan doesn’t quite realize how rapidly the world is changing on him, and as his entire family starts feeling like alien caricatures, the film reveals some pretty interesting revelations about the process of moving on. The “family retreat” setting, already deeply mined in films like The Big Chill and The Family Stone, is pure fluff and ridiculously executed at times. But Carell’s fine lead performance keeps the sentimentality in check, giving Dan in Real Life a charming perception all its own.

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