Let's assume, after her resounding success with 2009's An Education, director Lone Scherfig was warned to brace herself for the occasional dud in her cinematic future. After all, if Spielberg's oeuvre contains a calamitous Hook and a 1941, surely Scherfig should expect some artistic lurch one day.
Sadly, that one day has arrived. Today. This very day. It is titled—say it with me—One Day. The good news? No matter what project Denmark native Scherfig takes on next (say, a YouTube study of Great Danes ingesting a Danish), it'll be hailed as comparatively miraculous.
Until that time, we have to contend with Anne Hathaway's Emma and Jim Sturgess' Dexter, two miserable characters mired in non-events spanning 20 years. Even the story's conceit is shoddy: Unlike its precursor (1978's Same Time, Next Year), this couple doesn't necessarily need an annual face-to-face encounter. If Emma or Dexter simply mentions the other, then the filmmakers have met the appropriate prerequisite and can move on. (If only they didn't insist that we do the same.) We watch an opening night in July 1988 when two graduating college students flirt with the idea of hooking up. Awkward, ugly-duckling brainiac Emma has a crush on the ever-popular rogue Dexter, who barely knows her name. They decide on friendship over fervor, and for the next two decades we follow them as they evolve. Or, more to the point, as they don't.
Attempting an English accent that's far more amusing in its inconsistencies than is David Nicholls' insipid script, Hathaway exudes a sour discomfort, as if she realized her error in signing on to the project after the first day of shooting but had no choice but to grimace and bear it. Given that her previous work has been uniformly strong, it's shocking to see such a lackluster performance. Far more troubling is her other, lesser half, Sturgess' ever-dissipated Dexter, who reflects a depth of character that goes from A to, um, A. References to how he makes her laugh, or how much she loves him, are simply incredible...and not in a good way.
Neither a moving romance, compelling drama nor fascinating chronicle, this film lumbers from one insufferable moment to another. One Day seems much more like eons. PG-13.
24 SEE IT: One Day opens Friday at Cedar Hills, Clackamas, Cinetopia Mill Plain, City Center, Evergreen, Fox Tower and Lloyd Center.