Rated PG13/108 min
Two British teens, Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess), once nearly had a random hook up in college but blew their chance at a night of passion. The consolation prize—they remain friends for years, even as Emma is stuck in loveless relationships with others and Dexter becomes a tacky talk show host and substance abuser.
Even with all the predictable melodrama that ensues, it’s unlikely you’ll remember One Day the next day, as this is the kind of small, forgettable movie Hathaway and Sturgess do in between the bigger and more established projects. Hathaway, in particular, is playing Catwoman in the new Batman thriller next summer and only her most ardent admirers will remember this love story. Even her Love and Other Drugs was a far better, funnier and more interesting choice for the talented, on-the-rise actress.
One Day sets up the story with an odd, unsuccessful gimmick: the first scene takes place on June 15, 1988 and every following scene takes place on the same day every following year. The angle doesn’t work, because we feel like we’re missing too much as one year transitions to another. The story is also so poorly constructed that it could have taken place over the course of a single year instead of 20. The passing of time sort of comes across better in the ever-changing hairstyles of the leads, though Hathaway’s 2003 look too-closely resembles Jennifer Beals in 1983’s Flashdance.
Hathaway’s on-again, off-again accent is unconvincing but her typically plucky, hard-working performance services a weak foundation. On the other hand, Sturgess (excellent in The Way Back earlier this year) isn’t very good here; despite playing the juicy role of a drug-abusing, womanizing pseudo-celebrity, he doesn’t give the part much personality. The uneven chemistry between the leads is like watching Hathway and James Franco at the Oscars again. Patricia Clarkson’s role as Sturgess’ mother is too small and the characters all lack depth.
Frequently unpleasant, the movie brings to mind Robert Pattinson’s Remember Me, which bored and turned off its intended audience. This one takes too long to give viewers what they want and predictably turns on them in the last act. The ending may put a lump in your throat but it feels like a cheat. Even the set-up feels false: in the AIDS conscious late-80’s, the casual sex in the opening scene feels very late 60’s, not 1988, when the scare of sexually transmitted disease was peaking (no one here ever mentions a condom, either).
Director Lone Scherfig, whose An Education was slightly overrated but still affecting, constructs this overly familiar romantic drama with a gimmick that will leave audiences feeling they’ve missed something. 500 Days of Summer had a far more coherent and inventive method of the story jumping around in time to illuminate a relationship on fragile ground; that movie made us feel like we were seeing a highlight reel of a doomed relationship. The fragmented editing of One Day feels like we’re seeing snippets of a better movie that got cut down to ribbons. Instead of being dazzled by the giant leaps in time, we want to shout out “but… what happened after that?!”
Music lovers should enjoy the soundtrack, in which you’ll revisit Tears for Fears, Tracy Chapman, Stereo MC’S and Fatboy Slim (to name a few) and composer Rachel Portman’s 4-note theme is lovely. Despite the lovely Hathaway and the fun soundtrack, the film never drew me in. It never connects in the way the filmmakers intended and is best for die-hard fans of the leads.