How often have you had, or heard of, a really bad first date that ends up as a blissful union twenty years later? Probably never, for not one of you out there. But director Lone Scherfig and David Nicholls are determined to convince you of just that, as erotic sparks that don’t fly barely sizzle on the back burner for years, in One Day. And that’s just for starters, as only one of many challenges this pair of filmmakers is faced with in pairing off the most unlikely of lovers in this UK rocky road romance.
Adapted by Nicholls from his popular bestseller, One Day is not just burdened with the lack of initial attraction between these two stars, but audiences buying this mismatched duo as appealing and convincing as well. First, there’s Anne Hathaway as Emma, an awkward and insecure, Plain Jane bespectacled cynic from humble roots, longing to be a writer but stuck waitressing in a Mexican restaurant instead. As Hathaway struggles pulling off a British accent, and in an even further stretch doing suddenly not hot on the screen as well.
Then there’s Dexter (Jim Sturgess), a brash, ambitious upper crust womanizer with stud appeal, who’s inching his way up the small screen celebrity host ladder. The big problem, is that he’s negotiating the pressures of that viciously competitive world with plenty of booze. And is disintegrating into a sloppy drunk with concurrent diminishing career prospects.
Dexter and Emma first meet and not quite mate on the eve of their July 15th college graduation ceremony in 1988, ending up in a one night stand that never was. Specifically because he’s, well, drunk. And passed out. And geeky Emma for her part, apologizes that when it comes to sex, ‘I’m not very good at this.’
And with nothing discernible in common, the pair somehow continue to meet or encounter one another on July 15th, for the next twenty years. During which a friendship deepens, as a kind of periodic pause away from the real world. And a time to share reflections and be mutually supportive, recovering from their respective mishaps when away from one another.
Now, while these many peculiar plot strands may seem do-able on paper, breathing life into this episodic story is quite another matter. Not when the audience has come to know Dexter as a really repulsive, unhinged character, where just about the only reaction to his self-destructive personality is possibly pity. And when Hathaway is fed dreary lines like, ‘I got to know you and it cured me of you’ or ‘I love you, I just don’t like you.’
So where was that romantic chemistry hibernating all those years. Only the filmmakers seem to know for sure.
2 1/2 stars