That is why love stories are a popular film genre, but also one difficult to get right. Some are too syrupy sweet – think of any film based on a Nicholas Sparks’ novel, for example – and others are so heart wrenching they bring you to tears, like the quintessential tear-jerker, “Love Story”.
Then there is the romantic comedy or “romcom”, a popular genre that fits nicely into the love story/romance mold, but also adds plenty of laughs.
Charlie McDowell’s anticipated “The One I Love” provides a refreshing look at romance, although I’m not sure where it falls in the category. It is sometimes funny, but it doesn’t fit the criteria of a “romcom”, and it can be serious and tug at the heartstrings, but it isn’t a drama, either. Mainly, it is clever, imaginative, and odd, with a heavy dose of mystery/sci-fi. Sound unusual? It is, and that’s not a combination that comes along too often.
McDowell, whose previous credits include a few short films I am not familiar with, is a relative newcomer in the director’s game. He was raised in the industry – his parents are Malcolm McDowell and Mary Steenburgen – and that often provides a solid foundation for anyone who wants to act, write, or direct.
“The One I Love”, written by Justin Lader, another newcomer, stars Indy actor Mark Duplass and “Mad Men’s” Elizabeth Moss, as a struggling couple on the brink of divorce. To save their marriage, their therapist encourages them to go away for the weekend to spend time alone at a home in the country. Things appear to go well at first, but soon they find themselves in an unusual quandary. To write more about the story wouldn’t be fair since it would ruin the element of surprise. The less you know about “The One I Love” going in, the more you’ll enjoy it. Believe me.
I am a huge fan of Duplass and enjoy the choices he makes with roles. I also enjoy Moss, whose work in “Mad Men” shines brightly, even though Jon Hamm typically gets all the credit. Combining the talents of these two fine actors was a superb idea and they play well off each other. Duplass, mainly known for Indy comedies, and Moss for drama, blend nicely in this dramedy and the film belongs to them.
Aside from Ted Danson appearing as a therapist in the opening scene when the couple is in this office, it’s a two-person movie, with Duplass and Moss in every scene of the film. Screenwriter Lader supplied a short 50-page script that laid out the story, and suggested dialogue, but he left it to Duplass and Moss to improvise the rest. That’s risky since the pair appears on screen alone for most of the 90-minute film. It’s a good thing that it works beautifully and never feels like improvisation.
“The One I Love” has made the rounds at Sundance, Tribeca, and other film festivals throughout North America earlier this year. It will open in theaters in on August 22.
I highly recommend this one. If you’re a fan of the unusual and off beat, you’ll enjoy it too.