One Day, starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess
In general this was a very faithful adaptation. That’s always where I begin when I think about assessing a movie whose book I’ve read first (and I vastly prefer to read the book first). Some of my favorite lines from the book were kept, but one of my favorite episodes was gone: Dexter’s drunken letter inviting Emma to India. The movie did a good job of showing the banter and rapport and understanding that Dexter and Emma share, even when they are at their worst, and that makes you really root for them. Their humor is British and dry, very fun. Movie Dexter is somewhat less of an asshole than Book Dexter. His sometimes repulsive inner thoughts are gone, of course, and some particularly assholesque scenes are cut. More than anything he just seemed whiny, always calling Emma drunk from a pay phone in the rain, begging her to pick up or meet him or console him.
There are far too many moments of Emma putting on a strong face, pulling a close-mouthed I’m-so-happy-for-you-breaking-my-heart smile, blinking back tears over Dexter’s shoulder as she hugs him. I don’t really like the picture of a woman heroically suffering for the happiness of the man she loves, while he’s blissfully unaware. Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel like I see that more than its gender reverse, so it just strikes me as unfair.
One pleasure of the film is watching the outfits get better and better as Emma’s personal style evolves. In the opening scenes, set in the early 90’s, she wears a lot of floral dresses with combat boots. Her dress in Paris is to-die-for, and she rocks a short haircut better than anyone since Audrey Hepburn. Anne Hathaway is pretty much known for geek-to-hot makeovers in movies, so when you see her in big glasses in the first scene you know by the end she’ll be rocking a new hairdo and a full-skirted dress.
I had a deep personal appreciation for Dexter’s hair in this movie, mostly because he’s wearing the style that I found most attractive on a guy when I was about 13: short in back and longish on top, but not quite long enough to fall into his eyes, kind of framing the forehead in a floppy, boyish way. Other notable wearers of this haircut are Rider Strong (Shaun from Boy Meets World), Devon Sawa in Casper, and Dmitri from the animated Anastasia.
Seeing this story on film made me somehow put it into a context I hadn’t before. It reminded me of Made of Honor, a bad romantic comedy starring Patrick Dempsey that I saw when it came out. I don’t like it when a guy is “just friends” with a girl, but sleeps around all he wants himself, but you know the “friend” is who he’s supposed to be with. And of course the girl is totally in love with him, except she’s being cool and independent and not commenting on his sex life. Maybe she’s even moved on, but he decides at the last minute not to let her. It’s like he refused to have sex with this one girl to keep her pure and save her for when he’s ready to commit, like she’s a bottle of wine he’s aging on the shelf while he drinks tons of crap from a box. Except really he’s the one that needs to mature. And the dehumanization of the other faceless women is really problematic. I wrote about this stud trope two weeks ago. I really should have included One Day in the post on the trope, but I guess some of the plot’s complications distracted me from seeing it. Emma and Dexter’s different careers and their different politics are important factors in their relationship dynamic, as well as this stud trope. And I thought in the book they had sex in the beginning, but for some reason in the movie they didn’t. Taking away the early sexual contact makes it seem more sexist to me for some reason.
In my review of the book, I said the ending seemed kind of sappy, and the movie only made it more so. The flashback to the first day Dexter and Emma spent together, after they’re parted forever, is pure hankie-bait. The music really adds to the sentimental tone, of course. Overall, I guess I’d recommend the movie for anyone who’s in the mood for a romantic comedy that turns sad at the end.