Combustible Celluloid
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With: Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturges, Patricia Clarkson, Ken Stott, Romola Garai, Rafe Spall, Jodie Whittaker, Amanda Fairbank-Hynes
Written by: David Nicholls, based on his book
Directed by: Lone Scherfig
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, partial nudity, language, some violence and substance abuse
Running Time: 108
Date: 08/08/2011

One Day (2011)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Days of Their Lives

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

If we could eliminate the first few minutes and then the last reel or so of Lone Scherfig's One Day, we might have something. There's so much good stuff in the middle, heightened by a terrific one-line idea: Em (Anne Hathaway) and Dex (Jim Sturgess) are seen on one single day, July 15, over the course of 20 years. The idea sets up some interesting moments. Some years the two do not see each other at all. Some years they fight and the conclusion doesn't happen until the next day, which we do not get to see. The moments that are not here make up a huge part of the drama.

Of course, Em and Dex are in love, but their timing is all wrong. Dex is too much of a playboy to settle down in his younger days; he gets a job hosting a pop music TV show and becomes addicted to the high life. Then he winds up married due to an unexpected pregnancy. Meanwhile, Em is trying to make a go as a writer but winds up mostly working as a waitress. She earns the attention of a persistent doofus, a wannabe comedian, Ian (Rafe Spall). Finally, a graying and burned-out Dex realizes that he wants Em, but it may be too late.

The Ian character is a key to what makes this movie tick: rather than the typical romantic comedy third wheel, he has something of a soul. His moment comes later in the film; Ian is married with kids and he runs into Dex, delivering a heartbreaking but wonderful little monologue. Hathaway and Sturgess have nice chemistry together, much unlike Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal in last year's Love and Other Drugs. Hathaway is one of my current favorite actresses, possessing a real organic quality that allows her to seemingly burrow inside and live the material. Regarding this movie, however, I'm sure that most pundits will be blasting her for a rather wobbly English accent. But Ms. Scherfig (Italian for Beginners, An Education) definitely has a touch for cinematic romance.

However, the movie's real problem is the awkward foreshadowing of that first few minutes, and then -- when the movie catches up to that same point in time -- the dreadful ponderousness of all the lessons learned. Obviously I can't give away what happens, but good grief, the thing just doesn't want to end; you'd think 20 years would be more than enough. And, as long as we're eliminating things, I'd like to trim a subplot about cancer, as much as I love the luminous Patricia Clarkson.

I don't know... it seems as if such a simple and small premise would and should yield a simple and small movie -- something not so heavy and epic, but more lovely and amazing.

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