‘One True Love’ Movie Review: Simu Liu’s Charm Can’t Save Rom-Com
According to the quality TV adaptation of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel, the solution to healing trauma is boring sex.
Simu Liu may star in one of 2023’s biggest films, but no one will mistake ‘One True Loves’ for this honorable mention. But somehow this rom-com adaptation is more malleable than “Barbie.”
Liu is helming “One True Loves,” a big screen adaptation of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s 2016 novel of the same name. Liu Sam, a high school music teacher who finally gets the woman of his dreams, childhood sweetheart Emma (Phillipa Soo). The only problem? Emma’s first husband Jesse (Luke Bracey) is presumed dead after a fatal helicopter crash and miraculously four years later he is rescued and alive. very ready to rekindle her relationship with Emma right before her wedding to Sam.
If the premise sounds like beach reading, it is. The Reid film universe is expanding rapidly, with the Prime Video series ‘Daisy Jones & the Six’ taking off and fans clamoring to see who will be cast in the highly anticipated ‘Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo’, so it’s not entirely surprising , that his earlier, less critically acclaimed works are also being treated on the big screen.
Type “One True Loves”. Reid and her husband Alex J. Reid adapted the novel “One True Loves,” and while audiences would expect bringing the original author on board would make for a seamless transition to the screen, Ouch. Andy Fickman’s film is full of blatant exposition courtesy of Emma’s sister Marie (Michaela Conlin), Hallmark-esque statements amid a boring score, and additional plot holes (how did Will Jesse survive?!), as we like to admit.
“One True Loves” goes back and forth in time with a “13 Going on 30”-type nod to Sam’s enduring crush on Emma since eighth grade. Jesse, of course, is the popular jockey that Emma has her heart set on, while also knowing that Sam has a secret crush on him.
The teen versions of the basic love triangle played by Cooper van Grootel as young Jesse, Phinehas Yoon as young Sam, and Oona Yaffe as young Emma seem to want their own spin-off series. Given that these characters have absolutely no room for development in the 99-minute film, maybe it’s not such a bad idea.
screenshot / The Avenue
But Soo’s portrayal of grown-up Emma causes the film to fall apart; Coupled with the flat script and the advertising lighting and production design of the Kia cars, Soo is the stake at the heart of ‘One True Loves” decent ability. The Grammy-winner and Tony-nominee, best known for “Hamilton,” rocks the screen and seems to be pushing the acting to her male counterparts, Bracey and Liu, who are both more than capable of picking up the slack.
Yet Emma’s desperation and conflicting emotions are the heart of the story: without Soo, what will the audience be left with? And this is Liu, the glorious, wonderful Liu. Jesse, played by Bracey, is too emotionally stunted (he’s just returned from years of being trapped on a desert island that caused him to let himself go) to bring the charisma the film needs. Fortunately, Sam (Liu) is ready to step into the spotlight.
Sam is the one who states that their wedding should be called off since Jesse is coming back. Sam is the one who encourages Emma to give Jesse a chance. Sam is the only real adult there (and also the only real joke in the whole movie, a tuba of all things). “Everybody thinks they’re the hero of their own story,” Sam says at one point, reflecting on how he went from happily married in the space of a few hours. “But maybe I’m not the hero.” Maybe I’m the bad guy.” (Self-reflection, what a concept.)
screenshot / The Avenue
But the real villain of the film? I’m Emma. She’s caught between two hot men who represent both her past and her two distinctly different futures: a life of international adventure with photojournalist Jesse, or a quiet hometown romance and family with Sam. Of course, Emma’s emotional journey to discover what she really wants involves lots of sex with both of her husbands instead of it actually talks about what is happening. It seems the best way to heal trauma is to cut it out.
Strangely, the film doesn’t show much real romance, with cheap drama and a hackneyed story. The teasing has stopped and what we want to see more of is the actual romance(s)! – as MIA as Jesse has been all these years. Maybe it’s easier to just call it a day and have Emma, Jesse and Sam embark on the inevitable pairing. Have hotter sex, more romance (or both!), or a more compelling story, because as it stands, “One True Love” doesn’t warrant continued love.
The Avenue opens “One True Loves” in theaters on Friday, April 7th, and on Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play and Redbox starting Friday, April 14th the premiere of digital streaming.
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