Having followed Elizabeth Moss riding the countless bumps of 1960s gender inequality over seven seasons of Mad Men, seeing her in contemporary garb is a little strange. That she is a joy to watch, however, comes as little surprise. and her entry into the romantic comedy field, The One I Love, is certainly testament to her good taste in scripts and her range as an actress. Something of a risky move is the fact that this is the debut feature film for both director Charlie McDowell and writer Justin Lader, and while it may appear on face value an extended relationship bottle episode, this delightful little film is very much one out of the box.
After a night spent as the sole occupants of a secluded couples retreat, Sophie (Moss) and her husband Ethan (Mark Duplass) awake to a perplexing scenario. Their accounts of what happened the previous night are completely different. Of course, it may have just been the pot they had been smoking in an attempt to reconnect with their younger selves, but they really couldn’t be sure.
The retreat was a suggestion made to them by their marriage therapist – played in typically laconic Ted Danson fashion by the very same – in order to rekindle the ailing spark that ignited their relationship years earlier. However, the retreat is not a conventional one by any means, and to say any more would be to ruin one of the film’s great joys – the element of surprise.
This last quality is a rarity with romantic comedies, and while this film shares many familiar themes – trust, deception and jealousy – the road it takes to reach its inevitably tense climax is a quietly entertaining, and even humourously pragmatic, one.
This may be new territory for Moss, but it is not so out of the ordinary for Duplass, whose roles in Your Sister’s Sister and Safety Not Guaranteed seem good preparation for this surly yet protective husband figure. Together, they share a remarkable chemistry and a fizzing banter that is a constant mine for material and quite a few laughs. However, credit should be given to Lader’s screenplay for giving such depth to these characters to effectively utilise the full and substantial skill sets of the two leads.
Some may not take too kindly to a plot that is perhaps at times trying to be a little too clever for its own good, and its snowballing catalogue of escalating twists and turns might even become a little tiresome at times. But this is not a film that should really be seen as anything more than light entertainment, and it is very slickly made light entertainment at that, with a handy dose of storytelling flare.
The One I Love is screening at Nova Cinemas from November 27 through Village Roadshow.