Sep 08, 2011|
(USA) Directed by Lone Scherfig. Starring Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, Patricia Clarkson, Rafe Spall, Romola Garai, Jodie Whittaker, Tom Mison. Category IIA.
With two breathtaking leads and an engaging storyline taken straight out of a best-selling novel, “One Day,” on its surface, has all the trappings of a blockbuster. But this drama-filled tale of two star-crossed lovers sounds much better on paper than on a shiny silver screen.
The story begins on a fateful day—July 15, 1988—the day newly minted Edinburgh University grads Emma Morley (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter Mayhew (Jim Sturgess) end up in Emma’s bedroom after a rowdy all-night celebration with classmates. The bespectacled, left-leaning Emma has been crushing on the suave and handsome Dexter for ages. But Dexter has been too busy being popular to even notice, and now finds himself stuck with the awkward task of trying to sneak off quietly while Emma freshens up in the bathroom.
Fast forward exactly a year, and Emma and Dexter have somehow become good friends: friends who help each other move flats and write each other letters while on vacation. The two seem to be navigating safely through platonic territory, although Emma clearly desires otherwise. Give it another year and we find Emma working unhappily at a local taco joint in London, her dreams of being a writer on the verge of shattering, her life an uncompromising mess. Meanwhile, Dex has become a popular TV presenter, living the good life and schmoozing and boozing his way into ladies’ panties while his poor lovelorn friend watches from the sidelines. As the years progress, Emma’s and Dexter’s lives intertwine, unravel and do the tango together, with their respective stories building up to another fateful day more than 20 years later. Before this calculated climax, fortunes reverse and love interests come and go—the only constants being Dex and Em, Em and Dex. For all his flippancy and nonchalance, Dex remains attached to Em and inevitably gravitates towards her during his times of need. When Dex gets overwhelmed by his mother’s (played by an exquisite Patricia Clarkson) terminal illness, the first person he calls is Em. In reciprocation, Em writes volumes of blush-worthy poems about Dex in her journals, and even gets in trouble for them with her one-time beau, Ian (Rafe Spall)—who is essentially Dex’s antithesis in his role as the tragically unfunny comedian.
There is just one problem: the whole film revolves around two characters fighting their dreaded fate to become, god forbid, actual lovers—but no one is really rooting for them along the way. Instead, we are left to wonder what Emma sees in the douchey, borderline unforgivable character that Dex gradually becomes, and by the same token, what Dex had seen in the owlish and gawky Em in the first place.
Directed by the same Lone Scherfig who gave us such a captivating tale in “An Education,” “One Day” by contrast seems a bit forced, and just a touch too sentimental. Even with Hathaway’s and Sturgess’s flawless faces, sizzling onscreen chemistry and commendable character portrayals (despite her accent handicap—which is painful to bear—Hathaway’s graceful performance is almost Oscar-worthy), even with a fail-safe plot whose book version (by David Nicholls) has won the hearts of thousands of readers, even with a solid supporting cast and a breathtaking backdrop to boot… “One Day” is still, unfortunately, just shy of the mark.
You know you’ll be getting much more than a rom com when Rachel Portman’s epic orchestrals set the mood from the very first scene. But instead of a witty and moving dramedy—which “One Day” definitely could’ve been—we have a film that has painstakingly over-simplified a 500-page novel into a terse script of watered-down characters and missing chapters. We’re made to wait, and wait, for the story to develop into something greater than its sum, but that day sadly never comes.