THE ONE I LOVE
Reviewed for Shockya by Harvey Karten. Data-based on Rotten Tomatoes
Director: Charlie McDowell
Screenplay: Justin Lader
Cast: Mark Duplass, Elisabeth Moss, Ted Danson
Screened at: Review, NYC, 7/7/14
Opens: August 22, 2014
The main reason for the high divorce rate in the U.S. is probably not adultery or violence but simply the disappointment that one or both partners are simply not the same as they were when they met and courted. Either they have grown apart, developing different interests, or they can’t understand why they don’t feel the same passion that electrified them during their honeymoon. Just my opinion, but my viewpoint is given graphic representation by thirty-one year old Charlie McDowell in his full-length directing debut, using actors who are experienced in small, indie dramas and comedies. With Ted Danson in a small role and Mark Duplass largely improvising, think “Cheers” meets “Your Sister’s Sister,” as the popular star of the long-running TV episodes crosses paths with one of the great avatars of mumblecore. This is not to ignore the starring role of Elisabeth Moss, heretofore known to audiences in the brilliant cable TV series “Mad Men.”
What’s more, “The One I Love” embodies perhaps the greatest twists you’ll see on the big screen this year, twists so powerful that to describe them in a review would be dishing up an unforgivable spoiler.
In what is basically a two-hander, Ethan (Mark Duplass) and Sophie (Elisabeth Moss) have been married for some time and argue so much that it becomes obvious that they are on the brink of a split. Their therapist (Ted Danson) gives up on a talking cure, instead sending them to an isolated retreat where, he assures, many other couples have saved their marriages.
From their arrival time, they look like they will succeed, reinvigorating themselves, in effect going back to the exciting times of their courtship, particularly a long-remembered incident that found them both sneaking into a pool and inviting the enmity of a neighbor. In this Eden that consists of a main house and a guest cabin, Sophie and Ethan smoke some grass, have a nice dinner, engage in sparkling talks and in the sex that they had been missing for months. Then something eerie occurs: hours later, when Sophie returns from the guest house to the main building, a sleeping Ethan wakes up with no memory of their great night together. This is not the way to patch up your differences with your wife.
As a spoof of the romantic comedy/drama, “The One I Love” is spot-on. Using sci-fi elements that could have been found in episodes of Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone” albeit with a more extended treatment and even a greater grounding in reality, Charlie McDowell’s movie uses Justin Lader’s script—one which allows considerable improv from the talented duo of performers. The audience keeps guessing about the nature of the clever divergences, trying to figure out the nature of some improbable occurrences.
“The One I Love” could not have been better cast, nor could the audience expect a screenplay that has more resonance to their personal lives—or, least, to the lives of some. Considering especially the low-budget nature of the proceedings, the special effects are terrific, the costumes imaginative, and the musical soundtrack, with the final song “Dedicated to the One I Love,” most relevant.
Rated R. 91 minutes. © 2014 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – A
Acting – A-
Technical – A-
Overall – A-