“If I can’t talk to you, then what is the point of you? Of us?”
Aha, welcome to One Day, a brand new outlook on that strange condition known by all as ‘The Friend Zone’. You’ve probably been there yourself. Two friends, a constant a yearning ache of lust, and a whole lot of complications because of it. Based on the best-selling David Nicholls novel of the same title, there was a lot of potential for a romantic movie that would finally appeal to both men and women. A potential which, sadly, I don’t think was realised in the final cut.
Adapted by Nicholls himself, One Day tells the distinctly When Harry Met Sally style story of Emma Morley (Hathaway) and Dexter Mayhew (Sturgess). The title plays a big clue to the plot; this story does not simply pass through a simple timeframe. Instead every St Swithan’s Day over the course of two decades is looked at in immense detail. This gives us a unique outlook on this cinema coupling; whole years go by in between events, which means that everything can be completely different the next time we ‘leap’ forwards. Emma and Dexter could be in love, just friends, worst enemies, barely acquaintances or shag-buddies. Oh yeah, we’ve all been there. Well, I haven’t personally, but I’ve heard about people who have, so it must be true.
What’s right about this movie? First up, as it was adapted by Nicholls itself, it sticks to the novel extraordinarily well. Text has been converted to speech ruthlessly, yet efficiently, and there’s nothing too sickly about this unashamedly sweet story. The script is surprisingly witty in places, with some very pithy put-downs from Hathaway, the locations are beautiful, the time jumps capture (and maintain) the attention of the audience and the story is one we can all relate to. Hate, love, lust, ambivalence… it’s all there. And it all feels genuine too, which is a pleasant surprise.
The problem is that, once you’ve seen the trailer, the movie is kind of… made redundant. Because it’s literally a condensed version of the film. It has the beginning, the middle and the end. You already know how it’s going to pan out and so anybody who has viewed the trailer (which is all of you poor suckers, thanks to the fact that I handily included it above), will find themselves anticipating the moments they’ve already seen and comparing it to When Harry Met Sally (rather than One Day the novel). Then there’s the major irksome factor that Anne Hathaway is an American, rather than, you know, a Yorkshire lass. SLIGHT difference. She does try horribly in places to attempt a Dales accent, but it thankfully doesn’t last for long; somebody should sack that vocal coach, pronto.
Plus it’s Anne Hathaway. Trying, against her wishes I’m presuming, to look plain. And, just like in The Princess Diaries, this is achieved with shapeless clothes, frizzy hair and oversized specs. Sigh. But slowly she becomes her usual glamorous self and we’re supposed to join Sturgess in being bowled over by this material transformation. All she did was put on a dress, straighten her hair and TAKE OFF HER GODDAMN GLASSES! Bloody hell. If he didn’t know that she’d be a hotty when he met her in 1988, he must have been deaf, dumb and blind.
I suppose I speak for the majority of us when I say that David Nicholls, skilled writer though he is, is an absolute bastard for giving the more impressionable members of his audience such high degrees of false hope. Because it is, despite what the movies might say, surprisingly difficult to get OUT of The Friend Zone. Ever. You usually give it a go, declare your feelings or make a move, and they say “you’re such a great person but…” There’s normally a big fat but. And, unlike Sir Mix-A-Lot, I’m not a fan. One Day is about partners who won’t realise they’re the right one until it’s almost too late. Note the almost. In Hollywood, or in fiction, everyone stops the bomb at one second from detonation. In real life, the majority of us would just get blown to smithereens. But, you know, he does give us a wealth of misery and faux uncertainty until the climax, so I guess he does try to make it realistic.
To be completely honest, I did generally like this well-intentioned, if slightly missing the point, film. It manages to keep a lot of the book in there, despite the random changes Nicholls has scattered across it (did you think we wouldn’t notice David?). But I did like it. And that makes me hate myself a little bit. Which, in turn, makes me hate One Day. It’s a vicious circle of self-loathing and misery which, oddly enough, seems to parallel the plight of Emma Morley. So I suppose that’s something…