For Your Information: Star Ratings Out Of Five (★★★★★) Stars

Thursday, August 25, 2011

One Day


When done right, the romantic drama can be the most stirring of all movie genres. The best examples -- like "Casablanca", "A Place In The Sun" or "An Affair To Remember" -- have portentous clouds of dubiousness and sorrow that linger over the lovebirds nearly every moment. Even the ones that don't end tragically give us the fearful impression throughout that this is a true love that just cannot be -- until the finale either warrants our fears or dispenses them with the epiphany that yes it can, and did. These films tap into a place deep inside moviegoers who, as human beings, have societal, and primal, anxiety that life without love is a grim possibility.

"One Day" exemplifies none of this. Mostly, it's a British snoozer starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess ("Across The Universe") as two longtime best mates who should clearly be together; she's an aspiring writer, he's the host of a cheesy TRL-style TV show and the two spend the movie pussy-footing around their mutual attraction, each distractingly absorbed in their own busy hipster lives. The film has a time-elapse, "Blue Valentine"-ish conceit that conveys the story of Emma and Dexter (Hathaway and Sturgess, respectively) on the same day, July 15th, every year from 1988 to 2011. Once a year, for twenty-three years, from the day they meet till -- well, I won't give it away: that's the gimmick.

The premise suggests that, through the story's annual-snapshot device, in time two fully realized human beings will take shape, and one complex relationship will evolve -- all the while the audience should -- ideally -- be yearning for the characters to see the love that's so obviously right in front of them: a quarter century of "When Harry Met Sally" perhaps. But the movie fails on almost every level. The screenplay -- written by David Nicholls from his novel -- is full of dialogue that might have looked fine on paper, but it generates no sparks coming from Sturgess's cocky and vexatious Dexter and Hathaway's whiny Emma, a librarian-on-uppers. (Hathaway's faux-Manchester accent is garish, deliriously perky and distractingly synthetic. Why didn't they just cast the wonderful Carey Mulligan?) And the two talk a lot -- I mean, a lot. The film is based around a rapport that, alas, is non-existent. Even more, the whole one-day-a-year concept is such a hindrance, as opposed to a vehicle for deeper truth, that the movie becomes generally formless from its first minutes and goes south from there. It's arbitrarily utilized, sometimes displaying day-to-day continuity and other times skipping over major plot developments.

Yet, more than anything "One Day" never fully convinces us that watching the story of Emma and Dexter was worth our time in the first place. If the photography hadn't been pretty and the third-act shocker hadn't provided some much needed (and far too late) dramatic propulsion, I might have detested Lone Sherfig's film (beguilingly, she's the danish lass who gave us the masterful 2009 drama "An Educated"). Instead of getting angry, I just watched the years tick by, wondering -- hhmmm, are there really only twenty-three? Cause this feels like a lifetime.


  1. Of course it's worth your time --- 90 minutes of Jim Sturgess is always worth your time :)