You’d think if you were working in films and someone came to you with a romcom script about a couple who were old friends but at a moment of abandonment had sex and then had to negotiate the way this changed their relationship, it might just occur to you that this wasn’t an entirely original idea. If you were up and coming actor Jack Quaid, son of Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan, then you’d certainly expect to find the whole thing very familiar.
For all it’s similarities with a certain late 80s classic, and there are many, Plus One featuring Quaid junior and Maya Erskine, is a charming and refreshing little find. There are all kinds of movies debuting on streaming services at the moment but at this stage none of them seem that interesting (I am thrilled that my kids are now too old for Trolls World Tour). This film though, that crept out on iTunes with little fanfare, just as it was always destined to do, will give you a nicely diverting, if unchallenging, ninety eight minutes. Frankly with all that’s going on, this could be just what you need.
Erskine’s Alice and Quaid’s Ben have known each other since college and now ten years later she is just out of a relationship and not keen to start a new one, whereas he hooks up with lots of women easily with no intention of starting anything long term. See, I told you it had more in common with When Harry Met Sally. In fact it also borrows from another classic of the genre as you see them getting closer through a series of weddings that they are both at. In this case though they are choosing to go together rather than randomly meeting, hence the title of the film. Also, they seem to have a totally different group of friends for each of the weddings they go to which seems odd, but perhaps no more odd than having exactly the same group of friends at every wedding. There’s no funeral this time but there is a significant scene in a graveyard.
For all of its recognisable elements though, Plus One feels like a very contemporary take on these types of films. It has its own brand of wit and the characters are up front in a way that feels more now than then, especially Alice. This could prove to be an effective calling card for Erskine who can also be seen in Pen15; the quirky and knowing teen parable TV show that she co-created. Jack Quaid has already made an impact with Amazon’s superhero series The Boys but this is likely to advance his career too. They are both enjoyable screen company.
The film is also quite aware of its cinematic pedigree and might even be making a deliberate comment on the unoriginal nature of romantic comedies as a genre, and movies more broadly, without parody or getting too meta. At one point near the end, the guy is challenged by the girl on why he has chased her down at a party to tell her how he feels. “It’s because you’re lonely” she says. She obviously hasn’t seen that famous Billy Crystal speech else she’d know it’s not because he’s lonely and it’s not because it’s New Years Eve, etc etc. His answer doesn’t quite go that way but the same sentiment is there.
What is different though, is that this actually isn’t about people realising that they want to spend the rest of their life with someone and wanting the rest of their lives to start as soon as possible. Plus One is very sweet about marriage but doesn’t seem to be that passionate about the idea of true love which is curious and new.
Plus One has a lot of ideas and even if they aren’t all fresh they are well executed and amusing. The film won’t stay with you for ever but if you want something to entertain and put a smile on your face then why don’t you have what I’m having.
Plus One is available to rent on iTunes for 99p for this week only.