tue 23/07/2024

Plus One review - charm, yes, but irritation too | reviews, news & interviews

Plus One review - charm, yes, but irritation too

Plus One review - charm, yes, but irritation too

Jack Quaid pushes romcom up a bumpy hill

I do, I do: Maya Erskine and Jack Quaid in 'Plus One'

The fast-rising young actor Jack Quaid comes naturally by the ease with which he takes to Plus One, a modern-day inheritor of the sorts of romcoms his mum, Meg Ryan, used to do alongside Tom Hanks.

Playing a damagingly choosy singleton called Ben who realises that love has been staring him in the face all along, Quaid lends undeniable charm to a movie that often pushes back hard against it. Let's just say that Jeff Chan and Andrew Rhymer, the film's co-directors and writers, have come up with a putative partner for Ben whom audiences may well give up on, even if Ben ultimately doesn't: his doubts along the way are likely to be shared, at least by some. 

The hesitancy is prompted largely by Alice (Maya Erskine), here conceived as one of those characters that filmmakers probably find coolly candid but whose company would surely give one pause in real life. A decade-long buddy of Ben's who only falls into his arms once they make a pact to attend one wedding after another as each other's dates (the "plus ones" of the title), she's the sort who can't resist making a passing mention to a bemused taxi driver of Ben's "penisaurus",  uses "gang bang" as a verb, and who complains that her feet hurt when she is in fact being carried (yes, by Ben). Erskine's commitment to the part is total, which in context comes as a decidedly mixed blessing. 

Maya Erskine and Jack Quaid in 'Plus One'By way of background explanation, we experience enough of Alice's mother (a frantic Rosalind Chao) to understand immediately that the apple fell very close to this particular tree: "Are you afraid of strong women," Ben is asked within minutes of meeting his probable mother-in-law, at which point you scarcely blame Ben for recusing himself from the interrogation to check with Alice's dad as to how things are cooking outside on a gratifyingly inanimate grill. We're meant, of course, to see Alice's verbal diarrhea  – there are those who call it bravado  – as representative of an unbridled free spirit that will blossom further in Ben's company. More than once, however, I found myself wanting Ben to go for any calmer option, even if the screenplay dictates an outcome you can see coming a mile away. (The couple's long-aborning first smooch comes almost exactly at the halfway point.) 

Where the film is on consistently firmer ground is the parade of weddings  – a mixture of straight and gay  – each of which feels like a playlet in itself. I love the fleetingly glimpsed toasts whereby one best man loses his way, or, later on, a bridesmaid confesses to the fart that set the happy couple on their loved-up course. Finn Wittrock, recently seen as the last of Judy Garland's husbands in Judy, gets a nice cameo as a hotel clerk confronted with Alice in especially full-on mode, and you want more of the woman glimpsed poolside who confesses to having a psychotic child keen, apparently, to eat his mother's teeth.

Ben gets his own parent-related drama via an acid-dropping father (Ed Begley Jr.), whose marriage to wife number three allows the script to come to a natural crescendo. Keen not to walk down the aisle more than once in stark contrast to his dad, Ben is taken to task for a degree of caution that, in context, looks entirely reasonable to me. Let's just hope his various travels to these many and varied nuptials don't allow time to catch up with Marriage Story, in which case I wouldn't be surprised if those preordained wedding bells really, truly don't chime. 



Maya Erskine's commitment to her part is total, which in context comes as a decidedly mixed blessing


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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