REVIEW: The One I Love

23 08 2014

The One I LoveIt is not uncommon to see movies tackling troubled relationships, as human relationships and conflict are often two crucial building blocks of any great story.  “The One I Love” puts a couple on the verge, Mark Duplass’ Ethan and Elisabeth Moss’ Sophie, front and center from the very first scene.  We see them at a therapy session, only to be sent off immediately by their headshrinker (Ted Danson) to a secluded locale that has apparently worked wonders on other couples.

Yet after about the first ten minutes of the movie, all that we think we know goes flying out the door in Justin Lader’s ingenious script.  Writing any specifics about the premise might spoil all the fun of “The One I Love,” but think of it as all the dimension-defying surreality of “Alice In Wonderland” without the exaggerated acid trip.  In other words, there’s no way you could possibly mistake this movie for the 2009 Vince Vaughn comedy “Couples Retreat.”

The alluringly unique magical realism of the story also comes with a relatively fresh take on issues long debated in relationship movies, such as the things people look for in a relationship and the benefits they expect to derive from it.  The revelations of “The One I Love” may not be earth-shattering, but at least they feel profoundly felt thanks to the committed performances of Duplass and Moss.  The two actors play deceptively tricky characters, and they navigate every turn with brilliant poise.

Director Charlie McDowell, on the other hand, does not necessarily hit every note correctly in his feature debut.  “The One I Love” often jumps around in search of a genre, usually vacillating between a intimate, two-hander domestic drama and a suspenseful micro-thriller.  Lader’s script thankfully lends itself to some abruptly jarring shifts, and the lack of tonal unity winds up coming aiding the film’s unpredictability on a moment-by-moment basis.

Though I doubt any major studio would ever go this far out on a limb with a big project, “The One I Love” offers a fascinating example of a fairly conventional setup being executed brilliantly through a refreshingly unconventional script.  B+3stars