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One Day - Movie Review

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One Day

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1 star

Disaffecting, miscast, and thinly written, One Day is the pitch-perfect example of all the things that can go wrong when attempting to adapt a highly acclaimed novel to the big screen. Especially when the source material tells the story of an ever-evolving long-term relationship that covers the span of some twenty years.

There’s a challenge in trying to condense twenty years of a character’s life into a novel, and an even greater one in boiling it down further into two hours of screen time. Having previously adapted his own work for the screen with Starter for Ten, novelist David Nicholls is not unfamiliar with the concept. But he seems lost and powerless in making us believe in the life-long attraction of his main characters in One Day.

The film’s problems aren’t just with the source material however. Nor can they be blamed on Lone Scherfig’s (An Education) direction. Anne Hathaway’s wandering British accent is neither authentic to her native Yorkshire, nor is it even British most of the time. I think I even heard the occasional tinge of Boston’s south side in there at times. And Jim Sturgess constantly screeches through his lines almost giving the audience a little wink and a nod each time he speaks, as if to say, “I’m only acting folks.” Together the two strike up absolutely zero chemistry… unless repulsion counts as chemistry.

The story’s catch, as well as the origin of its title, is that we view the evolution of Emma (Hathaway) and Dexter’s (Sturgess) relationship through the tiny little postcards of one calendar day each year – July 15th.  The couple meet in 1988 as two Brits who just graduated from the University of Edinbergh, rolled into the sack for a an awkward one night stand (that really didn’t happen), and remain life-long best buds up to present day. The romantic suspense (and subsequently, the remainder of the movie) comes from us checking in on them nearly every year for the next twenty, and seeing how their lives and desires for the future never quite match up.

Representing the film’s weakest leg is the fact that none of its characters are likeable. They're even repugnant at times.  We see nothing in either of the two main characters that would suggest they’d even consider speaking to one another, much less engage a romantic attraction.

As Dexter aloofly flitters across the continent, seemingly unable to emotionally connect with anyone (especially his own parents), Emma never quite puts the effort into achieving her life’s ambition. She eventually lands in a filthy Mexican food restaurant where she wallows for years in a sense of self-pity and perceived lack of privilege. We’re told she’s a writer, but other than an ever-present typewriter, we never really see her try to write.  Though Hathaway successfully pulls off the physical transition from ugly duckling to beautiful swan, we’re often put off by her bitterness at the expense of self-confidence. She’s not helped by the script’s lack of back-story however. In fact, in the film’s production notes, Hathaway speaks of resorting to the source novel during filming for help with her character. Problem is, this isn’t a book; it’s a movie. Something was lost in her character’s transition from page to film.

Then there’s Dexter who becomes the host of a trashy British TV show where he descends into a pit of moral decay and social and emotional indifference. Sturgess is aided somewhat in the context to his existence through the appearance of his parents (Ken Scott and Patricia Clarkson), but Sturgess doesn’t possess the depth to do anything with it. His Dexter becomes just another selfish cad without the maturity to figure out who he is and what he wants to be. Falling back on the unconditional support of Emma does not equal love, folks. It’s a reason to despise, not a call to rally.

Sturgess and Hathaway together never works. Love stories rely on chemistry, and that just never happens here. Like oil and water, their relationship through the years is one of disconnect. Neither character really changes, and subsequently the audience doesn’t totally buy into the relationship that forms the story’s backbone. So, by the time the film’s twisty climax trundles along (saw that coming from a mile away) in the final act, the credit roll is about the most welcome sight of the evening.

{2jtab: Film Details}

One DayMPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, partial nudity, language, some violence and substance abuse.
Director: Lone Scherfig
Writer: David Nicholls
Cast: Anne Hathaway; Jim Sturgess; Patricia Clarkson; Jodie Whittaker; Rafe Spall
Genre: Romance | Drama
Memorable Movie Quote:
"It's like I've just gotten out of prison, all the time. That's a real problem"
Tagline:
Twenty years. Two people.
Distributor:
Focus Features
Official Site:
focusfeatures.com/one_day
Release Date: August 19, 2011
Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available

Plot Synopsis: After one day together – July 15th, 1988, their college graduation – Emma Morley (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter Mayhew (Jim Sturgess) begin a friendship that will last a lifetime. She is a working-class girl of principle and ambition who dreams of making the world a better place. He is a wealthy charmer who dreams that the world will be his playground. For the next two decades, key moments of their relationship are experienced over several July 15ths in their lives. Together and apart, we see Dex and Em through their friendship and fights, hopes and missed opportunities, laughter and tears. Somewhere along their journey, these two people realize that what they are searching and hoping for has been there for them all along. As the true meaning of that one day back in 1988 is revealed, they come to terms with the nature of love and life itself.

{2jtab: Blu-ray/DVD Details}

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