Dan in Real Life

Something’s happening to Dan. It’s confusing. It’s awkward. It’s family.

Emily as: Ruthie Draper
Genre(s): Comedy | Drama | Romance
Written by: Pierce Gardner, Peter Hedges
Directed by: Peter Hedges
Other Cast: Steve Carrell, Alison Pill, Juliette Binoche, Dianne Wiest
Release Date: October 26, 2007
Production Budget:
Total Worldwide Gross: $68.3m
Filming Locations: Westerly, Rhode Island, USA

A conflicted romance collides head-on into the perils of family relations with fun-filled results in Peter Hedges’ fresh, clever and hilarious take on the slice-of life comedy Dan in Real Life. Comic sensation Steve Carell stars as an ordinary guy who accidentally stumbles out of his “play it safe” life into the exhilarating world of the unexpected when he falls in love on what was supposed to be a family getaway. Starring alongside stand-up star Dane Cook and Academy Award® winner Juliette Binoche, Carell is about to discover a family weekend of chaos, confusion, awkwardness – and ultimately, his entire family’s extraordinary capacity for love in the face of left-field surprises.

It all begins with widowed father and family-advice columnist Dan Burns (Carell), who is still reeling from the heartache of loss and takes refuge by trying to maintain order with his three rebellious young girls, while dodging anything unexpected or outside the box. But when Dan heads to Rhode Island, his miffed daughters in tow, for the annual fall weekend thrown by the large and boisterous Burns family, everything changes. Soon after his arrival, he runs into an alluring woman named Marie (Binoche) in a bookshop. For the first time in a very, very long time, Dan experiences real, live sparks – only to have to douse them liberally when he discovers Marie is, in fact, the brand-new girlfriend his brother Mitch (Cook) is about to proudly introduce to the family.

As the weekend gets underway in the close quarters of a crowded house filled with quirky, prying relatives, Dan and Marie try to squelch and cover up their growing mutual attraction at every turn, leading to one comical situation after another. Yet, no matter how hard they try to do the very opposite, Dan and Marie can’t help but fall in love. Now Dan is about to realize that no matter how wise safety might seem, when it comes to real life, he’s going to have to break all the rules.

Production Info

  • Improvisation was encouraged during filming. One such case was the line: “This corn is like an angel.” You can see Allison Pill’s stoic expression turn into a failed attempt to hold back a grin. The outtakes show that the entire cast soon burst out laughing.
  • The movie was filmed in an actual house in Rhode Island, where the cast spent a great deal of time bonding and rehearsing before filming began.
  • Largely based on co-writer Pierce Gardner’s personal experiences on years going to summer vacations at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware with his wife’s extended family.
  • The duet that Frank Wood and his wife perform in the family talent show is La ci darem la mano from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Don Giovanni. The duet is a seduction scene in which Don Giovanni convinces Zerlina to leave her fiancé.
  • Amy Ryan would turn out to be Steve Carell’s future girlfriend in the The Office. Furthermore, Emily Blunt is Carell’s date in the double date scene. She later married Carrell’s co-star from the series, John Krasinski.
  • Producers recruited some local children to play Dan’s young nieces and nephews.
  • Dianne Wiest, who plays Dan’s mother, is only 14 years older than Steve Carell.
  • Character Quotes

  • All I’m saying is that I don’t have kids. And I don’t, I don’t have problems, but it’s clear that if I do one day, your words will bring me comfort.
  • Mitch: So, Harvard Medical, John Hopkins… You’re certainly doing well for yourself, Ruthie.
    Ruthie: Yeah.
    Dan: Yeah, that’s impressive.
    Mitch: It must not, uh, leave enough time though for… for dating?
    Ruthie: Uh, there was someone. He was very special in my life, but, uh… [sobbing] He was lost in a freak accident. I’m so sorry. What’s weird is that we’d only known each other three days, but it’s… you know how sometimes you just know.
  • Mitch: So you’re a doctor?
    Ruthie: Yes, yes.
    Marie: What’s your, uh, specialty?
    Ruthie: Um, I’m a plastic surgeon.
    Marie: Oh, of course you are.
    Ruthie: No, I know, I know, I know what you’re thinking. But I work exclusively with burn victims, with children born with facial deformities.
    Mitch: She is basically a saint.
    Ruthie: [laughing] No. No, I’m just doing my little bit to help, I think. Just like your brother.
  • Quoting: Emily Blunt

    On her character: She was exhausting. If I had to play this character for a 3-month shoot, she’d wipe me out.

    Critical Response

    Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle: The cast is strong in all positions. Dianne Wiest and John Mahoney play the parents, and Emily Blunt has a featured role as a former ugly duckling transformed by time into a gorgeous professional.

    Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter: There is a priceless drop-by appearance by beauteous Emily Blunt, who is becoming the queen of comic supporting roles.

    Kyle Smith, New York Post: There’s also a cameo by Emily Blunt, who is merely awesome; a funny demonstration of how dancing can morph into a smackdown, even in the kind of pub that has a captain’s wheel over the bar; and a cheerfully nonjudgmental look at plagiarism.

    Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal: The likable cast does spirited improvs–the most enjoyable is the brothers’ song about a notoriously homely girl from their days in high school. (She shows up as a gorgeous plastic surgeon played by Emily Blunt in the movie’s best comic turn.)

    Richard Corliss, Time: Emily Blunt, a beguiler in My Summer of Love and The Devil Wears Prada, brightens up a scene in a bar.