Plus One Review
A lot has been written about the revival of the rom-com over the past few years, although it’s still difficult to recall many that are worth revisiting. Or perhaps it’s because the modern iteration of the sub-genre tends to produce films that are largely disposable, or maybe, there hasn’t been much of a comeback at all. Co-writers/directors Jeff Chan & Andrew Rhymer’s Plus One may be fighting a losing battle to stay clear of that sort of territory, but thanks to the chemistry of its two leads their debut makes for an enjoyable 90 minutes.
Jack Quaid and Maya Erskine play long-time friends Ben and Alice who, not for the want of trying, can’t find love and according to friends and family should be hooking up with each other. But that’s not even close to being on the agenda as they approach a summer filled with wedding invitations. Alice is trying to get over a painful break-up and after they make it through their first wedding date (which ends with Alice heaving into a bucket) they hatch a plan to remain as each other’s plus one for the rest.
Of course, it’s a narrative straight out of the rom-com playbook, and if you came here looking for cutting-edge comedy then you’re bang out of luck. But if a nicely penned script, warm characters and a screwball performance by Erskine sounds appealing, well, you’re in luck. Erskine has built a strong reputation as the co-writer and star of Hulu’s Pen15 and you hope this acts as a calling card that will allow her to graduate onto a bigger stage. Her devil-may-care attitude could quickly become too try-hard in the wrong hands, but she has the nuance to balance it out with real charm.
One-by-one Ben and Alice cross off the weddings until – well, you know. Of course you do. It’s what these films are made for. But because you expect it you can by-pass the eye roll and get behind them thanks to the genuine comedic connection formed between Quaid and Erskine. They seem to be fairly normal people (with a lot of spare time on their hands it must be said) who aren’t forced into absurd situations by the writers just to set-up a gag that doesn’t work.
Chan and Rhymer have some fun with the introduction of each marriage reception, slicing in a few seconds of an invariably awkward best man or bridesmaid’s speech that has some well-timed awkwardness. Chugging along quietly in the background is Ben’s unresolved issues with his father (Ed Begley Jr.) who is set to marry for a third time. It eventually winds itself round to a late third act conclusion, although it’s a largely underdeveloped part of the narrative that wouldn’t be missed if it was chopped out completely.
Surprisingly there are also some nice understated visual touches to the film, with a small handful of longish-takes fluidly taking you into the moment. Originality is generally thin on the ground but there’s a naturalism to the flow of the dialogue and story that sells it well. Inevitably Plus One will end up in the sea of content that is Netflix in the not too distant future. But while it doesn’t have any flashy names that jump out and grab you, it shouldn’t be overlooked and is one of the few recent rom-coms worth spending some time with.
Plus One opens in select UK cinemas on February 7.