I can't decide whether it helps or hurts to go into My One and Only with the knowledge that the teenage character of George Devereaux, played by Logan Lerman, will eventually grow up to become George Hamilton.
It's not as if it's a secret; Hamilton's name is in the opening credits. He published his autobiography earlier this year, Don't Mind If I Do, which included some of these same stories.
More important: This isn't a movie about the young George Hamilton -- or even the young George Devereaux. Rather, the focus here is squarely on George's mother, Ann, as played by Renee Zellweger.
In fact, the film is a road movie -- episodic, quixotic and all over the map. Director Richard Loncraine, working from a script by Charlie Peters, ultimately can't overcome the story's repetitive structure, though the cast seems to have a good time trying.
It kicks off in 1953, with Ann walking into her Upper East Side apartment to find her society bandleader husband Dan (Kevin Bacon) in bed with another woman. It's not the first time, apparently -- but she wants it to be the last. So she packs up her two sons -- George (Lerman) and his older half-brother, Robbie (Mark Rendall) -- and moves out.
She sends younger son George (he's the responsible one) to purchase a car and hits the road. Though she's been off the market for almost 20 years, she's convinced she still has what it takes to hook another well-off husband.
But each of her stops starts promisingly, only to wind up with disappointment -- and the requisite shock that, gee, something that seems too good to be true is, in fact, too good to be true. This prospective rich husband turns out to be broke; that one turns out to be abusive to her sons; another turns out to be a mental case.
Meanwhile, she is trying to teach life lessons about grace under pressure to George (who wants to stay in one place so he can go to school) and Robbie (who wants to stay in one place long enough so he can be in the school play). It is often George who is holding things together, reining in his mother's wilder impulses and, eventually, rebelling against them.
But this story is too episodic and repetitive to build any steam. Ann gets her hopes up, bets the farm on a long shot, then suffers a disappointment or a humiliation (at one point, she is mistakenly arrested for soliciting). She sulks for a moment, then puts on the brave face, musters enough denial to lift her own spirits -- and takes off again, hell bent on making the same mistake all over again.
Yes, it's a story of a bygone era -- though undoubtedly there are women who still quantify their worth as dependent upon the men they're attached to or able to attract. But despite Zellweger's innate pluck, this story eventually runs out of steam; after a while, the only surprise is when and how the next guy is going to disappoint her.
Still, Lerman is a savvy young actor with a sense of mystery and amusement that is just short of jaded. It's easy to see him maturing into the self-mocking, self-aware Geroge Hamilton. And Rendall is amusing as his fey, starstruck brother, whose aspirations toward an acting career far outstrip his talent.
So to get back to my earlier question, the answer is no: It doesn't matter whether you know that this story is based on George Hamilton's life. That doesn't make up for the film's flaws or take away from its charms, which just about balance each other out.
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