source: RLJ Entertainment

Movie Review: Plus One (2019) ***

Plus One is about a couple of friends who decide to become each other’s plus-ones at ten weddings over the course of the year. As one would expect with heterosexuality in a romance-oriented movie, it develops into Something More.

This is about eighty percent of a movie I *adored* and then a massive letdown of a final twenty percent.

I was poised to love this one, since it has Jack Quaid, who I like to call Twink Meg Ryan. He’s the son of Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid, but takes much more after his mother. He’s got her charisma and good looks and then he’s also tall, which is basically a royal flush for a white guy.

I wasn’t familiar with Maya Erskine before this, but she became my favorite immediately. Her performance is so funny. She’s got tons of range, great nuance, and she is adorably tiny compared to Jack Quaid. (Height disparity is always cute to me.)

The problem is that Maya Erskine could have carried this movie alone (like a dirtbag Meg Ryan), but the film was more concerned with Jack Quaid’s character. It felt as though it were written primarily as a vehicle for Meg Ryan’s son to do a romcom. But then it failed to do romcom well: the messy breakup happens, and Quaid’s character makes no grand gesture to earn her love in return. He talks to her briefly after changing his mind, and that’s it.

We follow Quaid’s character through his personal development. We do not see the reason Erskine’s character ends up with her ex again, or why they break up again in favor of Quaid, nor do we see Erskine’s character arc in regards to her parents completed. Plus One skips over the most critical climactic elements of romance in favor of Quaid’s character piece.

Suddenly, at the end of the movie, they are together again. There is no catharsis. We are deprived of genuine satisfaction.

It’s not enough for one person in a romance to overcome their issues. The point of romances is for both people to change through the darkest moment because the other person has what they need, so they grow for each other. Here, all Erskine “needed” was for Quaid to change his mind–at least, based on what we can tell happening on screen. Even Erskine’s family issues ended up serving Quaid’s character: it was only an opportunity to show his fear of commitment, not her growth.

Keeping their reconciliation off-screen, reflected on in brief montage, is basically criminal. Like, why’d you even make a romcom?

The first hour-ish of the movie was a hoot. Their relationship was adorable. Only One Bed In The Hotel Room is among my favorite tropes. By the time they hooked up, I was making zoo animal noises and banging around my living room. I was ready to give this six stars up until the moment I realized that, yes, we were going to spend the whole last twenty minutes with Quaid’s character, relegating Erskine to the prize he wins by having a heart-to-heart with his drugged up dad.

A bad dismount generally ruins an entire movie for me, especially when it feels like they flunked something so integral to the genre. It’s like if they didn’t show Aragorn at his coronation in Return of the King, or The Matrix skipping over a climactic fight scene, or a mystery shrugging off finding the answer. It’s really frustrating how often people make romcoms and don’t actually understand the payoff points of romance.

Sorry, Twink Meg Ryan, but this wasn’t it. I hope to see him in another romcom because it’s cute watching him Bold Boimler his way through hookups, but hopefully he gets better writing next time. And I’m going to go try Erskine in Mr. and Mrs. Smith, where I hope she gets better writing too.

(image source: RLJ Entertainment)

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