REVIEW: One Day

20 08 2011

Romance movies aren’t always my thing, being a guy and a Woody Allen fan. “One Day,” however, is a pleasant surprise.  It takes a novel concept – from an acclaimed, best-selling novel – and makes a will-they-or-won’t-they friends or lovers story fun and engaging.  While it’s a step down for director Lone Scherfig, whose film debut “An Education” was nothing short of masterful, it’s not a terribly precipitous decline.

In addition, it’s the kind of movie that played perfectly well in the early weekend afternoon matinee setting in which I saw it.  “One Day” is like a very long stroll with two very interesting and complex characters.  Anne Hathway’s Emma is a strong-willed, slightly prudish peace activist totally lacking in self-confidence.  Jim Sturgess’ Dexter is a laid-back, entitled mess of a man who never seems to be lacking in excuses to doff his clothing.  After a few bottles on the evening of their graduation, they spend a night together and begin a friendship that continues throughout the years.

The movie is then driven by their change over the next twenty years as we see them on July 15 from 1988 all the way to the present.  This nifty device prevents the movie (and I guess, prevented the novel as well) from slipping into predictable melodrama as their metamorphosing and evolving is what keeps us interested.  One year, Dexter is a drug-addicted hack television host and Emma is in a happy relationship; soon after, he’s cleaned up and in love while she’s found herself in a dead end.

This creative device being the engine of the movie has its ups and downs.  While it makes us want to take a journey with Emma and Dexter, it straps us in for a slow chug as “One Day” makes for one long day at the movies.  The runtime may be barely over an hour and 45 minutes, but it easily felt like two and a half hours.  It maintains our interest the whole time, which is good because it would otherwise feel interminal.

The premise could have also been an invitation for Hathaway and Sturgess to really show off their acting prowess.  With only a snapshot of their lives each year, wouldn’t it have been so much more compelling to have let their performances reveal what’s happened in between?  We are spoon-fed the answers rather than given the opportunity to read between the lines, like Marc Webb let us do with his genius “(500) Days of Summer.”  I’m content, though, with what I got from the two actors.  They deliver, Hathaway more so than her hunk counterpart, intricate character studies that show age and maturity a lot better than their makeup.  (Yes, I’m talking to whoever decided to make Jim Sturgess look the same until the final year when he suddenly becomes a silver fox.)

With romance in the gutter at the movies thanks to the garden-variety ultra-sappy Nicholas Sparks adaptations, “One Day” is a welcome respite for genre fans – and for that matter, a welcome movie for guys who don’t like movies that give girls unreasonable expectations about love.  It’s a flawed movie, sure, but it’s got a foot planted in intelligence … which is more than we can say for most studio products nowadays.  B / 

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4 responses

24 08 2011
Sam Fragoso

So perplexed on why every critic on RT is destroying the film – and every blogger I run into likes it.

Still, I’ll check out “One Day” this weekend.

By the way, since when was I taken off your blogroll 😀 ?

25 08 2011
Marshall

The question isn’t when were you taken off my blogroll, the question is “Marshall, why are you so lazy that you haven’t added me to your blogroll in the first place?” I don’t think that thing has been updated since spring 2010 … there are probably some defunct sites on there. I’ll change it soon.

As for Dan the Man … I’m sorry you thought this man-made disaster (in your estimation) paled in comparison to a natural disaster. But hey, it makes a good story for your kids some day.

25 08 2011
CMrok93

This one was just lame and could have done so much more with it’s premise. My favorite part of the movie was actually when my seat started shaking due to an earthquake happening about more than 400 miles away from me. Good Review Marshall!

27 08 2011
Alex

I hated nearly every frame of this flick. I just couldn’t get over Anne Hathaway’s schizophrenic accent(s). Jim Sturgess was okay, I guess, but I didn’t get why he always appeared to be on coke, even when his character wasn’t on coke.

Imagine if Carey Mulligan and… Dominic Cooper played the leads. Be pretty legit.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed your review, per usual.

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