Nov 13

“The One I Love”: A Strange Kind of Couples Retreat

At the start of The One I Love, now available on DVD, a couple with issues goes to therapy—-and things get really weird.

The Trailer for The One I Love

The Plot

David Edelstein, Vulture, briefly summarizes: “In the funny-strange sci-fi psychodrama The One I Love, Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss play a foundering couple, Ethan and Sophie, whose attempt to recover the happiness in their marriage takes them—on the advice of a therapist played by Ted Danson—to an isolated country estate where they meet … themselves. Or, rather, each of them meets someone who looks exactly like the other but is warmer and more attentive. Is it a dream? A shared psychosis? A portal to another dimension? (The couple ruminate on all these possibilities themselves.) The more urgent question is: What do you do when your mate is clearly falling for the person you were rather than the person you are?”

The Therapist

Matthew Kassel, New York Observer: “He makes them play random notes on an in-office piano—a bogus indication that their marriage is out of sync—and then recommends they get away to a rural retreat to ‘reset the reset button.'”

The Therapist-Recommended Retreat

Sheila O’Malley, rogerebert.com: “The ‘retreat’ is a weekend alone in a big old house on a large property, complete with a pool and guest house. There are no other guests. There is no guru leading them through trust exercises. There is no Steve Carell in ‘Hope Springs.’ It is just Ethan and Sophie, hanging out, exploring the grounds.”

The Couple (the only characters besides the briefly portrayed shrink)

Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle: “We’re presented with a couple that is beyond listening to each other. They no longer seem to believe in the other person’s virtue or specialness. And every positive association they have about each other is related to some past memory, when everything was new and they were both on their best behavior. So should they stay together? And if they do, what can they still expect to find?”

Alonso Duralde, The Wrap: “It’s not just familiarity that has bred contempt between them: Ethan was unfaithful once, and Sophie has yet to forgive him. At the same time, she has habits and walls of her own, so she’s hardly blameless for their current malaise.”

More About the Ensuing Plot and Developments

Sheila O’Malley, rogerebert.com: “…(W)hat they open themselves to is a Hall of Mirrors, increasingly disturbing, and the secrets start to pile up again, casually at first, and then consciously and deliberately…The two actors create a very real relationship, with a sense of shared joy in one another’s company, and myriad problems threatening to derail the entire thing. We can see how bored they are with life, with themselves, and with each other. To Ethan, trying something new means ‘going horseback riding with a satchel of wine.’ Ethan and Sophie are not extraordinary characters. But the situation in which they find themselves in is.”

Jul 18

“Safety Not Guaranteed”: Getting Second Chances

“Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.” 

This actual ad someone placed in Backwoods Home Magazine in the 90’s is used as the starting point for the new indie movie Safety Not Guaranteed, a quirky story with unusual characters and a plot that’s hard to describe.

Nonetheless, in brief, magazine writer Jeff (Jake M. Johnson) takes a couple interns on a road trip to find the anonymous author of the ad and to do a story on him. When Jeff finds himself the object of scorn by time-travel devotee Kenneth (Mark Duplass), intern Darius (Aubrey Plaza) gets the story, which involves expertly pretending to be just the time-travel companion Kenneth needs.

Claudia Puig, USA Today:

When Kenneth meets the group, he is instantly put off by Jeff’s glib manner. ‘What is that smile?’ Kenneth asks him. ‘You don’t know pain. You don’t know regret.’

But Darius does, and when Jeff appoints her to head the investigation, things pick up. She poses as someone responding to the ad, and her forlorn demeanor and dry wit connect with Kenneth’s eccentric personality.

Meanwhile, Jeff spends much of his time trying to reconnect with a high-school lover of 20 years ago and introducing nerdy male intern Arnau (Karan Soni) to the idea of girls.

KENNETH, BELIEVER IN TIME TRAVEL 

Turan calls him “a purist, a super-serious, unending earnest eccentric. Paranoid about being followed, given to saying things like ‘the technology I’ve invented can’t be understood by the average man,’ Kenneth believes to the core of his being that time travel is possible and repeatable.”

Mary Pols, Time, observes that he may be “…an unstable man, but he and his dream of time travel provide the story’s unexpected stability. Kenneth is teaching them how to seize the moment in the present while looking for the past.”

DARIUS, THE INTERN

Mary PolsTime: “From writer Derek Connolly’s narrated prologue, we know Darius is not an optimist. ‘I guess I remember being happy when I was a kid,’ she says. ‘Back when you just naturally expect good things to happen.’

Mick LaSalleSan Francisco Chronicle: Her “…sullen and sardonic personality just barely conceals a sensitive and questing nature.”

DARIUS and KENNETH TOGETHER

Both these characters have experienced losses, and this is partly what underlies their bonding as well as their wishes for do-overs. Together, they represent a load of complicated grief issues.

Madeleine Kruhly, The Atlantic: “…(A) good portion of the audience’s tolerance of Kenneth’s weirdness is probably due to his relationship with the more ‘real,’ albeit depressive, Darius.”