Anne Hathaway is lovely as ONE DAY heroine Emma Morley but the romance comes up short
Yorkshire girl Emma Morley is a beloved literary character in the U.K. thanks to the popularity of David Nicholls' romance novel One Day. The idea of Brooklyn-born Anne Hathaway playing Emma instead of any number of up-and-coming British actresses continues to be a sore spot for One Day's many fans. It's as if these advance critics have forgotten just how charming and pretty Hathaway can be. Hathaway may have mixed success at a consistent Yorkshire accent - it comes and goes throughout the movie - but she's utterly charming as the working-class, university grad with big dreams and low self-esteem in director Lone Scherfig's sentimental adaptation.
It is July 15, 1988 and Morley (Hathaway) and Dexter Mayhew (Jim Sturgess) wake up in the morning after a night of celebrating their graduation from university in Edinburgh. In her dingy college apartment, Emma tells Dexter that they've met before, all throughout school, but he just doesn't remember her.
They laugh about their drunken night together and part as friends. Over the next twenty years, as Emma and Dexter march towards middle age, they continue to meet despite the highs and lows in their lives. Perhaps, these friends are destined to be something else.
Instead of accomplishing the perfect accent, Hathaway captures the provincial shyness, thrift wardrobe and deep aching to make a difference in the world that makes Emma such a likable and relatable heroine.
Of course it takes two to spark a successful movie romance. Jim Sturgess, who almost played the lead in the ill-fated Spider-Man musical, looks dead-on as Dexter Mayhew, a wealthy student with the resources to do whatever he wants in life. While it's instantly clear how a girl from Northern England would fall for someone as stylish and worldly as Dexter, the connection between them fails and One Day loses much of its passion.
To Sturgess' credit, he's at his best capturing Dexter's showbiz arrogance and out-of-control behavior. Sturgess makes Dexter's redemption at the end of the movie satisfying but his chemistry with Hathaway remains lacking from start to finish.
Pacing is everything in Nicholls' novel and it's disappointing how rushed One Day turns out to be, especially at the beginning after Emma and Dexter first meet.
It's as if Scherfig abandons her strong filmmaking skills and instincts for frantic storytelling that squeezes every page from the book into the movie.
Scherfig is an expert at coming-of-age romances thanks to An Education and her 2000 foreign-language comedy Italian for Beginners. It's unfair to expect Scherfig to match the wonderful An Education every time. Still, it's surprising how One Day lulls as '90s era London flashes before our eyes only to come to life near its melodramatic conclusion.
Perhaps Nicholls, who trained as an actor and wrote the adaptation of his previous novel Starter for 10, is too close to his book to make the necessary edits.
Maybe Sturgess rises to the occasion if another screenwriter, say An Education scribe Nick Hornby, is taking a fresh at Nicholls' beloved book.
Instead, despite Scherfig's filmmaking talents and Hathaway's charisma, One Day becomes the latest literary adaptation that comes up short.
Distributor: Focus Features
Director: Lone Scherfig
Scriptwriter: David Nicholls, from his novel One Day
Cinematographer: Beno”t Delhomme
Cast: Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, Patricia Clarkson, Rafe Spall, Romola Garai
Production Designer: Mark Tildesley
Running Time: 108 minutes
Producers: Color Force, Film Four, Random House Films
Rating: Rated PG-13
Release Date: August 19, 2011