While some may find it difficult to believe that saying no is easy in today's culture of constant activity and heavy involvement, "Yes Man" illuminates an important aspect of the human experience - fear. Fear of the future, of uncertainty. Fear of the past, of repeating mistakes and being hurt again. Fear of the present, of upsetting the status quo. Our obsession with certainty evidenced in our fear of losing the comfort of one's present lifestyle, security in the routine of the past, and confidence in the predictability of the future is a stubborn obstacle gripping us in the vices of indecision and inaction.
While comedians do not usually win awards, the status quo needs to be challenged after after Jim Carey's incredibly apt depiction of this paralyzing internal struggle. Alongside actress Zooey Deschanel (Allison), Carl explores the road to recovering his ability to truly live life. After suffering the pain of rejection following his divorce, Jim's introverted character becomes even more concerned with maintaining comfortable boundaries and being sure to take no uncertain chances or unfamiliar paths.
The staleness of his unobtrusive life permeates the opening scenes as we witness a typical day of work at his mundane, dead-end job, the immense effort spent in avoiding his friends' phone calls, perpetually finding excuses to leave or avoid social gatherings, and even missing his best friend's engagement party ("Pete," played by Bradley Cooper). Carl's epiphany comes when he dreams about his clearly dead body being examined by his two best friends (Pete and "Rooney," played by Danny Masterson) who cannot tell if he is alive or dead. While he looks dead, "he never did much" during life anyway so it's hard to tell the difference between the dead corpse and the live one that just drifted through the motions of life.
Once a friend introduces Carl to the "Yes Man" conference he meets the eccentric self-help speaker and creator of the "Yes Man" program (Terrence, played by Terence Stamp) who proposes an odd "covenant" - to say "yes" to everything that is asked of him. By accepting the daring challenge, Carl unwittingly propels himself into a journey of bar fights, Persian mail order brides, flying lessons, giving homeless men rides to deserted clearings and forfeiting all his money, and even a kiss from a moped mounted stranger.
Once Carl begins delivering on the "yes man" promise to himself a thrilling new life and a whole new Carl take center stage. As a result of the late night homeless man episode, he meets (and gets a kiss from) Allison, with whom he begins pursuing his spontaneous new life and eventually falls in love. From photo jogging, to off the mainstream music, sneaking into parks at night, and taking spur of the moment trips to Nebraska, Allison and Carl seem to be well on their way to a fairy tale ending and a chance at commitment that neither thought could be possible again.
However, as the random side of spontaneity begins to play a factor, a host of Carl's "yes man" activities end up landing him in a Lincoln, Nebraska jail facing charges of terrorist conspiracy. Unfortunately, in order to prove his innocence, the truth comes out about the motivation behind Carl's spontaneity and Allison leaves him immediately upon release in a flurry of anger and hurt at a relationship that she perceived to be forced upon him by some odd self-help contract.
Despairing at the loss of a sincere love, Carl finds sets out to find Terrence to release him from the covenant only to find that his approach to the covenant was all to dogmatic and not at all pragmatic. Terrence explains that the purpose of the covenant was not to literally say yes to and do everything that is asked of him, but rather to open his life to new experiences and to open his mind to the possibilities of a life that is truly lived, thereby freeing his mind and his spirit from the drifting life of the "no man."
Armed with his second epiphany of the movie, Carl seeks out Allison at her regular photo jogging class to make things right and to explain that while he did say yes to everything, the relationship that they had and the love that they shared was born of his own desire to pursue and not maintained by a necessity to say "yes."
Overall, this Warner Brothers Picture and Peyton Reed directed film beautifully encompassed and addressed the struggle of the masses to live a life of true adventure and joy instead of one that simply exists. While more lighthearted and wittily funny, "Yes Man" could truly call T.S. Elliott a peer in the world of addressing the struggle of the common man, however, in this movie we get to experience the second half of the story as we learn from Carl and Allison how to break the mold of monotony and embrace the possibilities of "Yes!"