Film Review: “Plus One” Offers a Fresh Take on the Rom-Com

Film poster: “Plus One”

Plus One (Jeff Chan/Andrew Rhymer, 2019) 3½ out of 4 stars.

Anyone worried about the state of romantic comedies should take heart at the release of Plus One, a delightful concoction from writer-directors Jeff Chan and Andrew Rhymer, making their feature debut. Stars Maya Erskine (When Jeff Tried to Save the World) and Jack Quaid (Rampage) make a lovely pair as they (plot spoiler …) fight off their growing attraction, fall in love, fall apart and then make up in a charming conclusion. There’s not much reinvention of the genre rules here, but the joy is in the execution and the casting. A good time is most definitely had by all.

Erskine plays Alice, and when we first meet her, she is very drunk, attempting to listen to college friend Ben (Quaid) practice his upcoming speech as Best Man. They’re at the first of (I think, unless I miscounted) 11 weddings, and soon they will decide, since they have the same friends/acquaintances and are invited to the same nuptials, that they should become each other’s “plus ones” to avoid the awkwardness of singles at such affairs. They get along well and do not seem to share, in any way, an attraction the one for the other. In addition, they are both just out of relationships, lacking dates. Finally, they’re supremely comfortable together, presaging an eventual intimacy that will lead to romance.

Maya Erskine and Jack Quaid in PLUS ONE ©RLJE Films

I was familiar with neither performer before (though Jack is the son of Dennis, and also of Meg Ryan), so came to the cinematic table quite cold. Individually and together, they are possessed of great presence and chemistry. Erskine, especially, takes her cynical Alice and makes her initial whiny neediness appealing and fresh, then slowly blossoms by the end into a completely new version of herself; she’s a wonderful find (to me, though I see from her credits that this is hardly her first role). Quaid seems more conventional, but underneath his apparent normality rages a complete neurotic, straining to break free. It’s their movie, for sure, though the writing is pretty fine, too. Like a millennial Four Weddings and a Funeral – albeit without the funeral (though there is a sex scene in a cemetery) – Plus One is both wildly funny and deeply sentimental (in just the right way). Invite this pair over; you won’t be disappointed.

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About chrisreedfilm

Christopher Llewellyn Reed is a film critic, filmmaker, and educator. A member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, he is lead film critic at hammertonail.com, an online magazine devoted to independent cinema; a regular film critic here at filmfestivaltoday.com; the host of Dragon Digital Media’s award-winning "Reel Talk with Christopher Llewellyn Reed"; a film commentator for the "Roughly Speaking” podcast with Dan Rodricks at "The Baltimore Sun"; and the author of "Film Editing: Theory and Practice." In addition, he is one of three co-creators, along with Summre Garber of Slamdance and Bart Weiss of Dallas VideoFest, of "The Fog of Truth" (fogoftruth.com) – available on iTunes, SoundCloud and Stitcher – a podcast devoted to documentary cinema.
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