September 1, 2011

Romantic Comedy Turns Sappy

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A montage of lovers flashes before your eyes. They’re kissing. They’re whispering to each other in bed. They’re giggling. They’re giving each other googly eyes. All to the tune of Ingrid Michaelson’s whimsical, dreamy cover of “Only Fools Rush In.” Ah, you think, this, this is love. But wait, they’re apart. They’re missing each other’s phone calls. They’re with other people. They’re shooting brooding glares out into the distance, the distance between star-crossed lovers in a long distance relationship. Ingrid, your voice is so haunting right now!  Quite the emotional rollercoaster for a preview (Like Crazy, coming out October 28th — see ya there, it will be kind of a light form of masochism).

I turned to my friend sitting next to me with watery eyes and immediately regretted my decision to come see One Day, if this was the kind of trailer the film execs wanted to throw up before it. Truth be told, I read the book version over the summer so I already knew everything that would happen, but I was expecting more of a rom-com than a rom-trag. Luckily there’s just enough humor and warmth to keep One Day from being a complete sob fest.

One Day, based on the novel and screenplay written by David Nicholls, follows a couple who meet on their last day of university in Edinburgh, Scotland. They share an awkward near-romp in bed and then platonically snuggle a liiiittle too unrealistically for me. The transition from “We just met” to “I don’t actually want to have sex with you” to “spooning in a twin bed,” was too fast. But that’s cinema for you, right? This chance encounter cements their relationship as one that may forever be unrealized even though its clear they’re meant to be.

Each year, on that same, fateful day, we revisit Emma and Dex wherever they may be in their lives. The film plays out like a more structured version of 500 Days of Summer, with the date printed on the screen as every year passes. Throughout the years, the relationship between Emma and Dexter changes as they see other people, fail, stay in touch, travel, succeed and go on with their lives.

Jim Sturgess plays Dex, and if you had a crush on him after Across The Universe, you won’t be disappointed. He’s pretty much the same — charming, scruffy, accented. After their initial meeting, Dex is almost immediately friend-zoned, not because he’s too nice, but because he is too cool. He pursues a career in entertainment complete with model girlfriends and alcoholism. Throughout it all, he leans on Emma for friendship and she, ever-obliging, is almost always there to pick up his drunk, 2 a.m. phone calls.

When I was reading the novel, I found Emma so annoyingly self-deprecating that I couldn’t relate to her, no matter how hard I tried to hate myself. We’re actually really similar in a lot of ways — liberally artsy, indecisive, kind of pretentious  (I wonder what that says about me). The movie did a good job of staying true to the book, so much so that I still didn’t really like Emma in the beginning. Luckily, Anne Hathaway and her awkward accent helped me connect with Emma. Making her more likable, though, might draw some criticism from those who prefer the original mousy, droll (and British) Emma.

Yes, Anne Hathaway is probably too clean-cut, pretty and American for the role (her teeth are perfect), but audiences tend to like clean-cut, pretty, American people. While I would have loved to see Kate Winslet’s take on Emma, Hathaway does a decent job tackling yet another one of those those simple girl turned bombshell roles (Princess Diaries, The Devil Wears Prada).

Some people criticized the film for being slightly sexist, because it’s only when Emma is finally beautiful and successful that Dexter even really thinks about being with her. This issue is mutual, though — for the majority of their youths, both Emma and Dexter hide behind their stereotyped personalities, Emma as a mediocre bookworm and Dexter as an irresponsible party boy. Only when they allow themselves to be who they want to be can they finally allow themselves to love who they’ve really wanted to love all along.

In the novel, the setting or the character development or the author’s style just didn’t always resonate with me. I think it was the British thing. There was something about Nicholls describing a stripper as dancing a “languid jig” that I couldn’t really quite picture in my head. The movie took the minor mental discrepancies I had with the writing and translated them into a slightly-deeper-than-normal love story. The ending, of both the book and the movie, was one of my favorite parts. In an attempt to avoid spoiler-status, I’ll just say this —  stick with it through the moments of shock and tears. The final scene will bring you back to the warm, fuzzy feeling of life, love and what could be.

Original Author: Rebecca Lee