Love Doesn’t Conquer All in One Day
- Christa Banister Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2011 19 Aug
DVD Release Date: November 29, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: August 19, 2011
Rating: PG-13 (sexual content, partial nudity, language, some violence and substance abuse)
Run Time: 108 min.
Director: Lone Scherfig
Actors: Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, Patricia Clarkson, Rafe Spall, Romola Garai, Tom Mison, Jodie Whittaker
As any writer worth his/her salt already knows, one of the biggest no-nos in successful storytelling is getting way, way too attached to your own sparkling prose. And sadly, this is precisely how things go very wrong in the big-screen adaptation of David Nicholls’ whirlwind romance, One Day.
Like this past spring’s Something Borrowed, another example of a popular novel that should’ve been a far better movie than it actually was, One Day also suffers from a similar disconnect, namely a lack of discernment about what works well on the page vs. what ultimately engages an audience on-screen.
And since it was Nicholls himself who penned the screenplay, he isn’t exactly shy about borrowing from himself. In fact, entire passages (dialogue included) are essentially lifted straight from the book, which wouldn’t be a problem if something—anything—actually happened. Unfortunately, One Day ends up feeling more like One Year when a slew of unnecessary (read: mundane) details fail to move the story forward.
If anything, Nicholls’ extensive insight into Dex (Jim Sturgess, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole) and Emma (Anne Hathaway, Rio), two strangers who don’t exactly meet cute on the night of their college graduation, sleep together and ultimately decide they’re better as friends, would’ve given the story that rich, wonderfully complex character development that’s often missing in your standard-issue rom-com.
But even as we check in on Dex and Emma every July 15, the anniversary of their fateful inaugural meeting, and see them date other people and struggle to make sense of their lives, we’re still not given any compelling reasons for wanting them together. There’s just never that one moment when it all clicks. In the book, their relationship was much easier to buy, but here? Not so much.
Worse yet, it’s hard rooting for Dex and Emma because they’re mere caricatures of actual living, breathing people. Dex is basically the textbook definition of a cad. Good looking and completely aware of it, he’s also a child of privilege. Not really sure what he wants to do with the rest of his life, save for traipsing around Europe, drinking and bedding beautiful women, he’s not really deserving of a good girl like Emma, but yet you know he’s going to probably “see the light” and end up with her anyway. While Emma keeps reminding us there’s good beneath Dex’s superficial exterior, we never really get a chance to experience it until the film’s last third.
Meanwhile, middle-class Emma is sweet, slightly awkward and has literary ambitions she never thinks she can live up to. Why she’d get involved with a guy like Dex, even as friends, is nothing short of a mystery. Sure, he’s undeniably handsome and charming to boot, but he doesn’t really add anything to her life except drama. Adding further insult to injury, her low self-esteem means that she routinely settles for a life that’s beneath her, particularly the company of her very unfunny live-in love, a comedian named Ian (British TV actor Rafe Spall) who’s got all the appeal of rotting salami on rye.
Sadly, lackluster casting also contributes to the film’s decidedly leaden quality. As pretty as Sturgess and Hathaway are, and there’s no doubt the camera likes them, they just don’t generate much heat. Whether they’re kissing, flirting at the local pub or merely serving up witty verbal barbs, it’s about as convincing as Hathaway’s accent. For the record, that wildly fluctuates between British, Irish, and, well, Hathaway’s normal voice, which naturally results in several unintentionally funny moments.
SEE ALSO: Nonstop Flight of Fun, Friendship in Rio
All that said, however, perhaps the biggest crime of One Day is the sheer lack of a point. Since the story does so little to entertain, shouldn’t there be some significance to these total opposites coming together? Unlike the book that delves deeper into class differences and the post-college existential crises that many students face once they’re thrust from the classroom into the adult world, One Day seems more interested in simply leading the audience down the path of emotional manipulation than actually engaging them in anything meaningful—a shame considering how much of a page-turner Nicholls’ novel was.
- Drugs/Alcohol: Social drinking and some recreational drug use depicted.
- Language/Profanity: A single use of the “f” word, plus a rude gesture in a similar vein. A smattering of other profanity including as-, bit--, da--, he-- and sh--, plus their British counterparts. God’s and Jesus’ names are also misused on several occasions, most frequently as exclamations. Rude references to male and female anatomy and sexual acts.
- Sex/Nudity: Several unmarried couples, including the protagonists, sleep together. Dex and Emma go skinny-dipping, and we see Dex disrobe (everything below the waist is obscured from view) and Emma’s nude body from a distance (her breasts, etc. are too blurry to really see anything). When Dex and Emma visit a nude beach, we see several older people’s backsides, plus a side view of women’s breasts. Known for his womanizing ways, Dex has sex with several other women, too, and we see him getting busy in one scene (his female companion is very scantily clad) while he’s on the phone with Emma.
- Violence: Dex gets beat up at one point, plus there’s a scene where a character gets hit by a bus while riding a bike. We see the bloodied dead body after the fact.
Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in Dallas, Texas, she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog.
For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.