I write from my sick-nest today curled up on the couch with grandma-made quilts, soup, and tissues. My favorite sick day activity consists of watching Dan in Real Life on repeat, and I am currently on my third viewing. Dan has just met Marie in the book store, and I am caught up in the charm of this middle-aged romance all over again.
For some reason, I have found myself in Dan more-so than in any other fictional character. The weird part of this, if you haven't seen the movie, is that Dan is a middle aged widower played by Steven Carell. Yet despite the obvious differences between myself and Dan, I always find myself feeling slightly rejected by those who do not like this movie and simultaneously nervous to show it to any of my friends.
We do have some striking similarities, Dan and I. For one, he is a writer! Dan also prioritizes his family over everything else and has an awkward streak. I've heard other people question his actions in the movie-- "Why does he eat the burnt pancake? Why does he throw that rock? Why does he tackle Marie during the football game? Why does he sing badly at the talent show?" And I realize that not everyone understands Dan to the extent that we, the awkward, can.
In Dan's case the source of the awkwardness appears to be the presence of a passion that he is unable to express due to his circumstances. He develops a habit of keeping his passion inside for the sake of his family, and as he lives his most passionate thoughts and feelings inside of himself his actions just come off as... awkward. His awkwardness indicates that he has deeply held emotions under the surface.
Ultimately Dan learns that though he focuses all of his energy on his family, the best thing he can do for his family is take care of himself. When he self-sacrifices to the point that he can't be happy, he becomes overbearing. When he is happy he can be better for them. By falling in love with Marie and allowing himself that joy, Dan can reconnect with his daughters. It's all a part of the giant balancing act of life.
The first time I introduced Owen to Dan I barely paid attention to the movie because I was afraid that Owen wouldn't connect with Dan the way that I do. I just didn't feel like Owen could ever really like me if he didn't like Dan. To my great enjoyment Owen understood and liked Dan better than anyone else I had ever introduced to Dan in Real Life.