Film Review by: Gordon K Smith
After a slew of gargantuan summer action epics (some I liked, others I didn’t), here’s a little movie made with just a few actors and locations in a couple of weeks, that has more originality and wit than any of those epics, and it says more about what makes love work, or not, than the last ten star-driven rom-coms. It’s THE ONE I LOVE.
Elizabeth Moss, that superlative actress from Mad Men, stars with actor/director (and this film’s co-exec producer) Mark Duplass as Sophie and Ethan, a married couple in a slump, who need some shock treatment to jumpstart their stalled relationship. Bit-too-chummy counselor Ted Danson sends them off to a private retreat for some quality time.
It would be hard to go any further without spoiling this film’s delicious surprise. The less you know about it the better. Don’t watch the trailer. You’ll never guess. You could take my word for it right now and just go without knowing anything else and enjoy the best, funniest, most unpredictable indie comedy of the year. Then stop reading now.
Still reading? Okay. From this point THE ONE I LOVE enters the world of David Lynch, Charlie Kaufman or Woody Allen in his surrealist mode. Something very weird happens at the guest house. Ethan and Sophie seem to be making real progress at mending their relationship, until they are forced to take a long hard look at themselves. Literally. It soon becomes clear that there is something very strange that is not the result of overly potent pot: their doppelgangers are also living in the guest house. Not the doubles of who they are now – the doubles of who they were when they met, or who they wish their mate was – sexier, wittier, more caring, more adventurous. Are they hallucinations, dreams, is it some kind of plot? The alternate Ethan and Sophie aren’t telling (much), and neither is director Charlie McDowell (son of Malcolm McDowell and Mary Steenburgen, who provides a voice) and Justin Lader, both young men making a solid feature debut after creating notable shorts, and wise beyond their years.
The central concept might seem one which would work fine in a short but doesn’t when expanded to feature length. Not here. At 91 minutes it works like a charm, and it’s exactly as long as it needs to be. And it works on many levels, all of them stimulating, if you pay close attention, which is required to keep up with the story, and believe me, you’ll want to. It’s hard to imagine a better metaphor for why we love the people we do, and how we’d love them again, or better, or longer, if they’d just change something…the way they look, they way they talk to us, what demands they do or don’t make.
Again, can’t go much further without spoiling something, but it’s no spoiler to say this is Moss’ breakout lead role – she’s never been more sexy, charming or touching, and Doug Emmett’s bright cinematography loves her blue eyes. Duplass, who directed the similarly bizarro distant cousin BAGHEAD, hits just the right befuddlement as “original” Ethan and suavity as “alternate” Ethan (it was a smart move to make a pair of glasses the distinguishing feature between them).
So far in 2014, this is the movie I love. See it with the one you love – you’ll come out smiling.