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Movie Review: ‘One Day’

August 19, 2011
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It’s never a good sign when you sit down to write a review and you can’t recall a single detail about the movie. Thus is the case with One Day, the screen adaptation of the wildly popular 2009 novel by David Nicholls. One Day is a perfectly fine movie, but its cardinal sin is that it is so unremarkable. I’ve heard nothing but great things about the book (full disclosure, I’ve not read it) for two years, and I expected monstrously good stuff from the film. Instead, we get a ho-hum romance that is nice and lovely, but immediately forgettable. Aside from the unique storytelling device, there is nary a single thing to set this film apart from countless other romance movies available to us on any given year.

Anne Hathaway stars (bespectacled and sufficiently frumped down) as Emma, a working class girl who is relegated to working as a waitress (she dubs her restaurant the “graveyard of ambition”).  Jim Sturgess (Across the Universe) is Dexter, born into privilege and money. The mismatched twosome hook up on the eve of their graduation from Edinburgh University in 1988, and it is Kismet; only the two characters don’t seem to know it. It will take decades for them to realize that they are really meant for one another.

Utilizing a unique storytelling device, the story revisits the couple on the anniversary of their original meeting for over twenty years. You only see that particular day, but it is enough to give you an idea of what is going on with both of them. They remain good friends throughout most of the years, both of them pursuing other relationships and supporting one another through the trials and tribulations of life. Dexter becomes a well-known television host and lives his life in the fast lane, consuming women, booze and drugs with equal relish. Emma slowly blossoms into a beautiful woman, and pursues her dream of writing.  Of course the two eventually realize how much they mean to one another, but thankfully the film does not dissolve into a schmaltzy Hollywood ending.

I wanted to love the film, I really did. I adore Anne Hathaway, but it will take a few repeated viewings of Rachel Getting Married to wash the taint of her abhorrent British accent away. It’s a downright painful assault on the ears, and it detracts from the movie. As for Sturgess, he is fine, but seems to lack the charisma to carry the film. He is a little bland, though likable. The two of them together lack any palpable chemistry, adding to the film’s woes.

Patricia Clarkson spices things up as Dexter’s blueblood mother. It seems Clarkson has become the go-to girl for “zany” characters (see: Friends with Benefits, Easy A, Whatever Works). I hate to see her pigeonholed, but she’s so damn good at it.

The film is not without its charms. I really like the premise of giving us a look (sometimes fleeting, sometimes lingering) of this couple on the same day every year. That’s an interesting way to tell a story, and I wholly embrace it. I also enjoy seeing a couple go through all the obligatory stages of friendship before they end up together. They know one another inside and out, warts and all, and they still choose each other. Nicholls penned the screenplay and the novel, and the dialogue is sharp, witty and smart.

I guess I just had higher hopes for the film, seeing as Lone Scherfig (An Education) directed. She did such a fine job providing real emotional depth to the characters in An Education. Here the characters remain largely two dimensional and inaccessible. I wanted to get swept away, and I clutched a packet of tissues, ready to dab my eyes should the need arise. It never did. I left as dry-eyed as when I entered the theater, true testament that I never really came to care about these characters.

Please chime in if you read the book and saw the movie. Did it live up to the book, or were you disappointed? I’m very curious if this is a good representation of the book.

Rating 2.5/5  One Day is directed by Lone Scherfig, and written by David Nicholls. Starring Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, Patricia Clarkson. Rated PG-13. See trailer below.

 

 

 

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