REVIEW / ROMANTIC COMEDY
PLUS ONE (M18)
99 minutes/opens today/ 3.5 stars
The story: Alice (Maya Erskine) and Ben (Jack Quaid) are friends from college. Ben is single and looking; Alice has just broken up with her long-time boyfriend and is broken-hearted. They are at an age when everyone they know is getting married, so they make a deal. If they cannot find anyone else to accompany them, they will be each other's plus ones at every wedding they are invited to.
This indie comedy is animated by Erskine's mischievous, often prickly charm. Her Alice is a live wire - the drunk guest falling into the pool or dancing a little too aggressively. She is about as unselfconscious as a person can get, but it masks the hurt of a recent breakup.
Her pal Ben, on the other hand, is as buttoned-up and cautious as she is brash. They get along because the naturally bossy Alice instigates the fun and he follows. They have a clear and highly functional younger brother-older sister chemistry.
But as in all romantic comedies, something has to happen to kick emotions into higher gear and, in this movie, nothing happens as expected. Over a series of weddings and an odd family gathering or two, romantic comedy tropes are overturned in favour of something less dramatic, more realistic and much more satisfying.
Alice, for example, might be seen as Ben's manic pixie dream girl, the muse who shakes up his world, except he has known her for years and they are so comfortable in each other's presence they share hotel rooms dressed in their tattiest at-home clothes.
That point is highlighted in one funny scene when Alice playfully decides that they should share a bed and seduces him in mock fashion, to his irritation.
Jeff Chan and Andrew Rhymer, in their feature debut as writer-directors, make the most of Erskine's physical style of comedy, showcased so well on her acclaimed comedy series Pen15 (2019), on the Hulu streaming service.
It would be a mistake, however, to regard this as a skewering of millennial dating habits, or any kind of satire on modern romance. This is a sweet, heart-on-a-sleeve celebration of love blossoming in unlikely circumstances.