Making the Grades
Advice is always easier to give if you don't have to actually follow it yourself. As a newspaper columnist, Dan Burns (Steve Carell) writes a parenting piece for the local paper. Read and adored by hordes of subscribers, the widower bases his counsel on his own experience with three daughters.
His girls, on the other hand, aren't so impressed with their father's approach to raising kids. At 17, Jane (Alison Pill) complains he won't loosen the reins and give her a chance to drive their family station wagon. Convinced that she has found her soul mate, 15-year-old Cara (Brittany Robertson) is abhorred when Dan drags her away from the clutches of her boyfriend (Felipe Dieppa) in front of her friends. And even Lilly (Marlene Lawston), the youngest of the trio, is already wise enough as a fourth-grader to see that adults don't always get things right.
Still, they are all more or less willing to pack up and spend a few days at a reunion on the Rhode Island shoreline with their grandparents (Dianne Wiest, John Mahoney) and extended relatives. Although happy for the opportunity for adult interactions, Dan has to endure some brotherly ribbing about finding another wife. Tuned into the tension, Dan's mother sends her son off to fetch some newspapers at the seaside booksellers. There, between the shelves of paperbacks and hard covers, Dan meets a beautiful and interesting foreigner who spends the next few hours chatting with him over tea and muffins. Eager to tell his family about Marie (Juliette Binoche), Dan races back to the cottage just in time to meet his brother's (Dane Cook) new girlfriend... who happens to be the same woman.
Cloistered in the tight quarters of the family cabin, Marie and Dan spend the next few days trying to avoid each other and keep secret their earlier meeting. Yet, the close proximity makes Dan a glum chum as he watches his brother fall more madly in love with Marie while he is doing the same. Soon, however, Dan's daughters are reading the situation and pulling him aside with some advice of their own.
Filled with relatively believable and positive family characters and scenarios, the film's humor is based predominately on interpersonal relationships and situational complexities, including an awkward, non-sexually motivated shower scene. With only infrequent profanities and some sexual commentary, the film focuses more on the intricacies of love, life and familial connections. While children and teens likely won't be humored by these challenges, adults may appreciate the comedy behind the complications that arise for Dan in Real Life.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Dan In Real Life.
How does the loss of their wife and mother affect Dan and his daughters? What are the challenges of being a single parent?
What kind of extended family and sibling relationships are portrayed in this film? How do Dan’s parents offer support to their children?
What positive outcomes can result from reunions and other shared familial traditions?