Plus One


Reviewed by: Jane Fae

Plus One
"Not bad, not brilliant." | Photo: Guy Godfree

Plus One is a romcom with an inherently recognisable of American format. Sleeping With Other People by way of Sex In The City: funny, witty, a little bit edgy, but not too edgy as you really don't want to frighten the horses. Or in this case, the (young) family audience, looking for entertainment that doesn't challenge.

It is the tragic (!) tale of Ben (Jack Quaid) and Alice (Maya Erskine) going through that inevitable late-20s experience when pretty much every person they ever knew is busy getting married. Not just their friends and friends of friends - even Ben's father (Ed Begley Jr) is getting married for the third time: this time round, to a woman half his age.

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As wedding – and wedding reception – follows wedding reception, Alice remarks: “Your wing men are gone!”. Why not just agree to be one another’s plus ones for the duration until such time as one or t'other should find themselves permanently hitched?

Plus One – or perhaps First World Problems!

Dipping into US reviews of this film, there is high praise for its wit, its insightfulness and for the way in which it subverts established genre. The last is certainly true – up to a point – as Alice carves out a space and a lead role for herself by being everything female leads aren't supposed to be: straight-talking, sassy, occasionally foul-mouthed, and straight-talking.

She is damaged by the cheating of her previous partner, Nate (Tim Chiou), not to mention her closeness to her mother (another scene-stealer, in the form of Rosalind Chao) . Ben, meanwhile, is hobbled by his own obsession with finding 'the one' via a 'meet-cute'. For a male lead, he is a disappointment: a wimp both physically and intellectually.

That makes this very much Alice's film: or rather, Maya Erskine's film and following on her success in Hulu’s comedy web television series Pen15, which she co-created alongside Anna Konkle and Sam Zvibleman, she is now destined for bigger things.

Of course – not even a minor spoiler – Ben and Alice eventually fall for one another: which is what happens when the banter stops and they get serious for a bit. Then they don't. And everything slowly winds its way to the season climax, the marriage of Ben's father. At which Ben must give a speech as best man, despite his deep-seated conviction that this is all bad idea.

To be serious for one brief moment, this film upholds – why wouldn't it? – the normative presumption that you cannot be best friends and share a bed together without ending up as 'an item'. But that is a bigger question and way beyond the scope of a slight romcom dedicated to celebrating the virtues of couplehood.

Resolution comes by way of a running joke: Ben's father and his friends determined to recapture their own lost youth by revisiting greatest drug hits of the Seventies. Smoking 'doobies' and dropping acid...

It is not bad, not brilliant. Nor especially original: one gets the sense that many of the reviews identifying this as mould-breaking and different are written from a US perspective. Because the sassy female lead has long been a thing in the UK.

Not a film I'd go out of my way to see: as the Hitchhiker's Guide suggests in quite other context it is 'mostly harmless'. Worth an evening in rather than a night out.

Reviewed on: 11 Feb 2020
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Plus One packshot
In order to survive a summer of wedding fever, long-time single friends Ben and Alice agree to be each other's plus one at every wedding they’re invited to.
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Tribeca 2019

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