A husband and wife (Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss) struggling in their relationship visit a retreat on the advice of their therapist (Ted Danson), and they make a startling discovery in one of the guest houses.
That discovery results in something that is beautifully clever when it comes to addressing the problems that plague many relationships, while also playing like a really cool "Twilight Zone" episode.
Ethan and Sophie are totally bombing in therapy, and The Therapist (that's the Danson character's name) is not amused. He has the couple strike keys on a piano as a test of their compatibility. He asks them the age-old questions, like "Say, are you two having sex?" When it appears that there's nothing he can really do to help the two, he hands them a pamphlet for some place that has worked wonders for many of his past patients.
As a last ditch effort, the two head for the resort, where they find immediate comfort. It's the sort of comfort a lot of couples feel when they escape their surroundings, crack open a bottle of wine in some different location, and try to unwind. It's nothing that resembles a breakthrough, and it appears as if Ethan and Sophie might be going through the motions, albeit pleasantly so.
Then ... the strange thing happens. This strange thing is the basis for the whole movie, and I do believe I would be a major dickweed if I were to reveal the exact details. So, yes, I'm going to attempt to get through this whole review without giving the big twist, essentially the fuel cell for the whole movie, away.
The big twist results in one of the better romantic comedies in years, one with a big brain and strong insight. Calling "The One I Love" a romantic comedy is almost an insult, but it has romance and it is funny, so I suppose it falls into that particular genre. I do think it's a movie that many therapists will hate, because it could save some couples a bunch of money. It's an eye opener, for sure.
Charlie McDowell makes an impressive directorial debut utilizing a solid, brutally honest script from Justin Lader. The movie is about seeing your inner potential fully realized, tapping the dormant ability to solve mutual emotional problems with self-sacrifice and compromise, and the healing powers of bacon.
Duplass is making a name for himself as an understated, offbeat romantic comedy lead. He's actually the star of another of the more recent great romantic comedies, that being "Safety Not Guaranteed." His Ethan starts off the movie as a sort of undercover douchebag, a mild mannered guy who has allowed his insecurities to overtake him while committing egregious relationship errors. He's generally unlikeable, and his transition is made very realistic through the power of the Duplass performance.
Moss, star of TV's "Mad Men," has a movie career spanning over two decades, but "The One I Love" makes it feel like she's just arriving. She has an arsenal of "looks" in this movie that will make many a man shrink in their seat with the fear of being discovered for all of their transgressions. She successfully taps into the sinister and sweet sides of Sophie, making her perhaps the most memorable character of her movie career.
So, I hope I aroused your curiosity, because "The One I Love" is the sort of movie many folks in a humdrum relationship or currently living through a staunch singlehood should take the time to watch. It's also a chance to see two performers fully embracing some illuminating characters. Prepare to laugh, but also prepare for some post-movie headaches, because your forehead is going to endure some of those self-inflicted, "I should've done that!" palm smacks. ■