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“One Day” — a film review by Gary Chew

Aug 142011
 
 By , August 14, 2011

This season, I’ve learned my lesson well with summertime movies that boast talented supporting players one hopes will make the pictures worthy of the time it takes to watch them. Patricia Clarkson is one of those really fine supporting actors whose ubiquity and ability have become legend the last few years. But boo-hoo, her recent appearance in “Friends with Benefits” was a letdown.

Then, there’s the lesson of the really excellent leading actor who wowed me earlier in one or more roles that causes me to want to see that performer in his or her newest picture that’s soon to open.

The lesson learned is: you can’t always be right using that information, these days. And “One Day” is one movie that tumbles into that category with a relatively loud thud.

Jim Sturgess and Anne Hathaway

Been there… done that, even with Anne Hathaway as the leading lady, although she’s just about always a joy to watch whether she’s playing the guilt-ridden Kym, sister to “Rachel Getting Married”; Lurlene, one of the women in “Brokeback Mountain” married to a closeted gay ranch hand; or, in “Love and Other Drugs,” the gal who quickly beds-down with Jake Gyllenhaal, doing her book-wormish, but alluring Maggie character.

Anne, as Emma, in “One Day” is more than just similar to Maggie. I thought maybe she was the same gal, this time, up close and personal (but not as revealing) with Jim Sturgess, instead.

This sure-fire, first-date movie for people with anglophilia has Emma and Dexter, played by Sturgess, as graduating university students who have an initial overnight fling after their baccalaureate service, then decide, thereafter, rain or shine, to meet-up every year on the same date to see what’s up with their friendship, whether the relationship, in its own way, is a rainy or sunny day, so to speak.

The annual get-together for the couple is July 15th, St. Swithin’s Day, which is akin to what a rainy Easter Sunday can bring, I’ve heard.

Maybe “One Day” should’ve been titled, “Same Time, Next Year.” But Robert Mulligan has already beaten Danish director, Lone Scherfig to that cinematic punch. “Same Time Next Year” first ran 33 years ago. Ms. Scherfig’s better claim to a better feature film is “An Education.”

Everybody stays rather perky, giddy and “with-it” through the first couple of acts of Ms. Scherfig’s “One Day.” But, well after most all the “with-it” withers and the perk and the giddiness fade as well, the story moves onto other events, which you’ll correctly guess are sure to happen.

It’s just that…with such a routine track-taking for a film, you’d suppose the early goings-on of “One Day” would make better use of their time developing characters (other than Hathaway’s and the aforementioned Ms. Clarkson’s) who elicit a sense of sympathy—especially for Dexter.

Jim Sturgess and Patricia Clarkson

But, back to Patricia Clarkson, who has such an impressive resumé. She’s Dexter’s mom in “One Day.” Other than Hathaway and Ken Stott, who plays Dexter’s dad, Clarkson is the only person in the film who rings clearly in her role. It’s not a large one, and it is, ironically, written for purposes of evoking sympathy. But what it really does… is show what a together-mom Dexter (not knowing how lucky he is) has.

“One Day” derives from the 2009 novel of the same title by David Nicholls. He also did the screenplay. Rachel Portman, composer for the memorable music heard in the twice-Oscared “The Cider House Rules,” wrote the pleasant but somewhat sing-songy “One Day” score.

More often than not, this kind of film entertainment takes no prisoners when going for its enormous tug on our hearts. In “One Day,” the real play for these emotions comes near the end, after significant scenes do their usual job of “growing-up” people in the script who have the most at stake.

With Anne Hathaway on the business end of churning-up such feelings, “One Day” will come through for you with a pretty good payoff. It’s what Anne does best. And those big, beautiful, shining eyes of hers help a lot with that.

One more thing, for me, on seeing “One Day”: it has come to pass, for sure, that Hugh Grant (“Four Weddings and a Funeral”) has lived way too far into his middle years to be the right leading man for such a film, but Sturgess has filled the gap, here, and will likely be filling it yet again—and maybe again and again.

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Gary Chew was a classical music host, programmer and producer on Capital Public Radio’s KXPR 88.9FM, Sacramento for 18 years. He retired in January 2007. Read more about Gary's long and storied career here.
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