Sunday, October 9, 2011
Come for the dispossessed accents and hairstyles, stay for the Nicholas Sparks dressed up as a Cannes competitor. To be honest, Anne Hathaway’s accent challenge has no bearing on the film—within reason, it’s covered under Suspension of Disbelief—and the hairstyles are genuinely entertaining pieces of a puzzle which, when assembled, is a picture of God smiting us down to teach us all to love life. Or something.
I wonder if Lone Scherfig knows Whit Stillman makes satires. There is one right culture for Scherfig characters, and it’s highbrow, because how else will you project how brilliant you are to the world if not through branding? The nerd reads Watchmen because he’s an expendable plebe, a not yet fully mature human—until, toward the end, he is at least granted some measure of dignity, which is to say he grew up. Jim Sturgess meanwhile listens to club music and skims magazines because he’s a coked-up party animal, and Anne Hathaway sits around reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being, because god forbid we catch her with a Harry Potter or something. Not only is there no chance anyone could miss the bludgeony relative values of these people, excuse me, characters, but the specific signifiers of their individual interests have no subtextual resonance with the film, unless you’re willing to mount the One Day-as-existentialism argument, which I’d counter with the smiling puppy rainbow coda. Hathaway should be reading Kafka, a closet writer who croaked too soon, or Candide, because success scatters on the worthy and unworthy alike, or if we’re honest, Nicholas Sparks’ Dear John, but then that would be a bit like Brad Pitt cracking open Moneyball during Moneyball. The costuming is just as expressionistic, to be generous, but it’s somewhat less insulting to see a denim jacket project low ambition than to see Milan Kundera invoked for the sole purpose of showing how smart someone is. Why not just show us their SAT scores and be done with it? Or would that be infringing on Aaron Sorkin’s intellectual property?
But not even this divine judgment permanently disfigures the film thanks to the shallow watchability of Hathaway and Sturgess. For most of its running time, One Day is a fine, aspirational (assuming you aspire to financial greatness and cultural rectitude) venture in romantic escapism, not exactly harmless in its shallow feel-goodness, but buoyed by the moments that aren't ripped from Lifetime’s Five, which I assume is a Kiarostami remake with a special emphasis on condescending to women. And then the god our author comes down from the mount and delivers the ending. It’s meaningless, which is fine except it also ruins that whole escapism thing, which is all this complacent bourgeois trash has going for it anyway. At least Nancy Meyers believes in life after 40.