- Movie Rating -

One True Loves (2023)

| April 14, 2023

I read a lot of books, and in trying to find something that strikes my fancy, my eyes often glaze across the name Taylor Jenkins Reid.  Knowing the genre that she works in – easily digestible romantic hoo-ha with no beef on it whatsoever – I glaze across the covers and generally keep moving.  Now, she is adapting her books into movies – fish-food for those milling about the BookTok community.  They can have it.

One True Loves (the movie based on her book) is one of those weepy dramadies that comes thundering in with a premise that Reid spends the rest of the movie trying not to really deal with.  The tone is choppy, moving back and forth between perfume-ad conflict to silly sitcom hatfuls at a pace that will cause you to pull a neck muscle.

The premise is intriguing.  Emma (Phillipa Soo) is due to marry Sam (Simu Liu from Shang-Chi) a guy that she’s been friends with since high school.  But Emma has something on her mind.  Four years ago, her husband of 12 months, Jesse (Luke Bracey) was in a helicopter crash – the pilots were found dead but Jesse curiously disappeared.

Now, on the eve of stepping up to the altar with Sam – whada-ya-know? – Jesse is found alive having spent four years on a deserted island (uh-huh).  When we see him upon his return he looks like he’s spent a few nights in an alley downtown – grungy and a little shaggy but still with that hunky sensitive guy machismo.  He’s got a righteous bod, but he isn’t afraid to cry – you’re welcome, ladies.

What to do?  What emotional chords are pulled by this conundrum?  What will having these two great loves in her life at the same time do to her emotionally and psychologically?  What will she do?  What WILL show do?!  Will she marry Sam or resume her marriage to Jesse?

You might wonder, and when this movie is over, you’d still be wondering, because Reid’s adaptation is so soft-soaped and uncomplicated that it pulls all the juice right out of the premise.  Weepy music stands in place of conflict.  Crummy dialogue stands in place of really dealing with this difficult situation.  And bad actors stand in the way of making us care about any of this.

In other words, Reid doesn’t want you to think about this premise.  She gets her heroine into a predicament but wants to get her out with the most antiseptic means possible.  She doesn’t want her audience to have to think or to be challenged.

This is not helped by the filmmaking.  Andy Fickman’s direction is at the level of a picture-pretty Hallmark Channel presentation, one in which all of the characters are beautiful and when they aren’t busy being beautiful, they’re precious and cute.  Romance is accompanied by soft light and music and sex fades to black within reasonable bounds to keep the rating in check.

How would this scenario play out?  I kept wondering how this might have worked in a French film, where the puritanical limits are usually not observed.  In that case, Emma might have decided to keep them both.  Given the progress that the film strives for (Sam is Chinese-Canadian), it might have been the logical place to go.  Or, she might have dropped them both.  Anything might have been better than the conclusion at which this movie arrives, one in which all is well and no one is conflicted or challenge and no one has to think, ever, about anything.  You’re welcome, I guess.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2023) View IMDB Filed in: Comedy, Drama