The international best selling book One Day has been made into a movie starring Jim Sturgess and Anne Hathaway as Dexter and Emma, two British friends with possibilities whose friendship and romantic near-misses are followed over 20 years by checking in with them every July 15th. As you might've guessed, One Day belongs to the genre commonly (and somewhat derisively) known as chick flicks, and if you've so much as seen the poster for One Day or understand the chick flick genre, you can probably answer the burning question of whether Dexter and Emma's stars align. Which, as is true in most genres, is kind of the point. Watch the trailer for One Day below.
But as I watched One Day, trying not to be distracted by Hathaway's persistent American-ness and the fact that Sturgess looks like a lanky version of Elliott from E.T., I realized that I wasn't watching a standard romance chick flick -- I was seeing a revenge fantasy for women who fall for jerks told from the perspective of a repentant jerk.
As many guys (including myself) will attest, the fact that too many cool women fall for jerks is a tale as old as time that many of us know all too well. And considering the international success of the book, it seems like there are a lot of spurned women around the world looking for some payback from those who spurned them. Listen to my ReThink Review of One Day on the Uprising show with Sonali Kolhatkar by clicking on the image below.
As sensitive and open-minded as I like to think I am towards all genres of film, I find myself behaving like most guys when it comes to the dreaded chick flick, especially if it's based on a best-selling novel or has a nebulous, nondescript name that could mean anything or nothing. So you can imagine why I'd be wary of One Day, a film based on an international bestseller that stars Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess as Emma and Dexter, a British would-be couple whose friendship and romantic near-misses are followed by checking in with them every July 15th over 20 years.
If you've seen any of the promotional material for One Day or know the conventions of romance movies, you know that Emma and Dexter's evolving affections for each other won't go unrequited. And the fun of a movie like One Day should be seeing how a couple destined to be together eventually, over two decades, grows together, overcomes their self-imposed obstacles and figures out what the audience has known all along.
But in One Day, it's made clear that Emma knows early on that she wants to be with Dexter. That means that the biggest obstacle to Emma and Dexter becoming the couple we know they should be is Dexter, and, more specifically, his immaturity. That's when I realized that One Day isn't so much a romance movie as it is an emotional revenge fantasy for women who've had the misfortune of falling for jerks.
We've all had that fantasy, where that dreamboat crush who wouldn't reciprocate your affections during your awkward youth comes crawling back later in life, broken and humbled, to tell you what a fool they were to deny you, only to find that you've transformed into a sexy, successful swan with a smoking hot partner. It's the dream high school reunions are made of.
And, that's essentially what we have with One Day since, for much of the film, Dexter (and it's really his movie) is a good-looking, charming, privileged, womanizing, fairly shallow jerk, especially when his career and ego take off when he inexplicably and unrealistically becomes a B-list celebrity as the loudmouth host of an annoying late-night show. It seems Dexter's only redeeming quality is his friendship with Emma, who has become more frumpy as her dreams of becoming a writer and having a relationship with Dexter stall and she finds herself stuck in a dead-end waitressing job.
But in keeping with the crush revenge fantasy, we know that Dexter must eventually be laid low, admit the error of his ways and beg forgiveness, while Emma must blossom professionally and aesthetically and get a hot boyfriend to really rub it in. There's more to the story that I won't give away, but I'll just say that it takes this fantasy to its logical and supposedly tearjerking conclusion.
While I'm sure we'd all like to turn the tables on those that spurned us, the problem with this as a movie is that we spend much of One Day waiting for Dexter to stop being a jerk while wondering why the increasingly attractive and accomplished Emma hasn't met someone better. Dexter's friendship with Emma is considered his one redeeming quality, yet we rarely see the connection of like minds that should be its foundation. And while the film looks nice, its tone is uneven and never quite feels like slices of life taken at yearly intervals.
If you want to see a great movie about two people whose friendship slowly, sometimes painfully turns romantic, 1989's When Harry Met Sally still can't be beat. But if want payback on a former crush who clearly doesn't know what they're missing, One Day might help you vicariously stick it to them.