VOD film review: Plus One
Matthew Turner | On 11, Feb 2020
Directors: Jeff Chan, Andrew Rhymer
Cast: Maya Erskine, Jack Quaid, Ed Begley Jr., Alex Anfanger, Kiersten Armstrong, Jennifer Bartels, Finn Witrock
Watch Plus One online in the UK: Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
It seems entirely appropriate that the son of Meg Ryan (Jack Quaid) has made a When Harry Met Sally for the 2020s. The debut feature from writing-directing duo Jeff Chan and Andrew Rhymer, this delightful indie comedy is a must-see for anyone who’s nostalgic for the era of the classic rom-com. It won the audience award at the Tribeca Film Festival and seems certain to attract a devoted following.
Set in present-day Los Angeles, the film centres on Ben (Quaid), whose idealistic fixation on finding “the one” has kept him from lasting relationships, and his longtime friend Alice (Pen15’s Maya Erskine), who’s smarting from a recent break-up. Frustrated by the fact that all their friends are getting married, the pair agree to be each other’s plus one at a ridiculously high number of weddings throughout the year, partly to avoid the horrors of the singles table, but also because they enjoy each other’s company.
The tried-and-tested plot trajectory may be entirely predictable, but the pleasures of the film – much like When Harry Met Sally, its spiritual predecessor – lie in the delightful chemistry between the two leads, their respective comic performances and the sparkling dialogue. Indeed, so utterly charming is their double-act – not just as prospective romantic partners but also as best friends – that every second they spend together is a joy to watch.
Quaid has an extremely likeable screen presence, even if his character might charitably be described as an emotional idiot. There’s a delicious irony in the fact that it’s his obsession with “the one” and meet-cutes (the very staples of the traditional rom-com) that proves most damaging to his romantic prospects.
If Quaid is good, Erskine is a revelation. As sharp-tongued, perpetually unfiltered Alice, she delivers a star-making performance, combining physical comedy, whip-smart comic timing and a layer of powerful, heartfelt lurking emotion just underneath her cynical facade.
Surprisingly, the film ditches the traditional best friend roles (think When Harry’s Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby), but this pays off because it allows for more time exploring the personal lives of the main characters, most notably in a central subplot involving Ben’s feelings about his father’s (Ed Begley Jr) upcoming marriage to his third wife. Begley is reliably excellent as Chuck, while Rosalind Chao is terrific in a brief but revealing turn as Alice’s mother.
Throughout the film, Chan and Rhymer’s script shows a real understanding of just who their characters are – as a result, their relationship feels entirely believable, their conversations natural and engaging. The film is packed with great scenes that make clever use of the various wedding scenarios, such as scoping out potential hook-ups for Ben while dancing, having an argument during a photo session or – in one of the film’s funniest moments – Alice engineering a meet-cute for Ben in the bluntest fashion imaginable.
Plus One ticks all the required boxes for the traditional rom-com while still feeling fresh and original. If there’s any justice, Chan, Rhymer, Erskine and Quaid will all receive a serious career boost.