One Day

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This Catch-Up is written by Chelsea Cristene
One Day
Year of Release: 2011
Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, language, and substance abuse.
Currently Streaming on Netflix?: Yes.
Spoilers: Moderate. (General ending is revealed, but the crucial final details are not.)

Sometimes, on nights when even your favorite television shows have gotten stale and nothing in your Netflix cue sounds remotely appetizing, there’s little left to do but ask yourself, “Hey, there’s that shitty movie I saw three years ago; wonder if it’s still shitty?”

The film I’m talking about is One Day starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess. My mom and I saw it in theatres mostly because it was the only thing we could agree on, as our options (Conan the Barbarian; Spy Kids) were rather limited. After the credits rolled, our reviews closely matched the general consensus of the good people over at Rotten Tomatoes (which awarded One Day with a cringe-worthy 36% approval rating): monotonous, dull, shallow. But last weekend, I decided to try again.

One Day is the story of two friends, Emma Morley (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter Mayhew (Jim Sturgess), told over the span of twenty years. Emma and Dexter first meet on the night of their college graduation from the University of Edinburgh, and after deciding to forgo a one-night stand for reasons that are still unclear to me (how cute is Emma posing with her academic regalia thrown over her skivvies?), the two decide to stay friends. From here, the film follows a rather unconventional format of “checking in” with Emma and Dexter, be they together or apart, on July 15 of each consecutive year.

At first, Emma and Dexter function as two necessary halves of the same whole, each with qualities that the other lacks. Though Emma fancies herself a writer, she lacks the free-spirited flexibility that would bolster her creativity and instead commits to waitressing at a Tex-Mex restaurant. Dexter’s career in television, in contrast, is taking off. His rise to fame as a tacky game show host enables him to do what he does best – womanize – while Emma reluctantly settles down with her well-meaning albeit dumpy co-worker Ian (Rafe Spall). But when Dexter shows up to visit his dying mother (Patricia Clarkson) heavily under the influence, it becomes clear that his TV persona façade can’t hold out much longer.

Predictably, Emma and Dexter’s relationship navigates a sea of ups and downs – substance abuse issues, unsatisfying romances, career changes, job losses, weddings, divorces, and even a terrible fight in their late twenties that halts their correspondence for four long years. Also predictably, despite all of the conflict Emma and Dexter ultimately wind up together (though there is more to that ending that I won’t disclose because Huge Spoilers). Too predictable? Could there have been another option? Let’s start here.

It’s a common dramatic trope to have the male protagonist end up with the first female character introduced to the audience. See also: the recent conclusion of How I Met Your Mother. This formula works because it creates its own plot arc, allows for plenty of conflict as each character sorts themselves out, and concludes with the “full-circle” feel we look for in a narrative. Realistically, there was no other option for either Emma or Dexter in One Day – we knew that Ian was boring, that Sylvie (Romola Garai)’s personality was likewise entirely too flat and dismissive for the rambunctious Dexter, and really, where were things going to go with Emma’s Parisian jazz musician?

I’ve always liked this trope because it flies in the face of so much of what we’re (I believe incorrectly) taught about love: that “true romance” is an instantaneous deus ex machina flash of revelation rather than a strong and complex connection built over time. While chasing storybook fantasies, we treat romantic love as an altogether different beast than friendship, when in fact foundational friendship is crucial for any relationship – familial, platonic, romantic – to last. Dexter begins to grasp this for a brief moment when he and Emma go on vacation together in their early twenties. The problem is, I pretty much fancy everyone, he admits during an impromptu skinny dip, but with you it would be…different. Of course, having said too much, Dexter quickly backpedals by proposing a casual summer fling, to which Emma responds by holding him underwater. The bond he shares with Emma is way beyond fling material, but like many of us, Dexter needs time to mature and figure this out.

Rewinding to 2011, I think that my main beef with this film was that I didn’t feel genuinely connected to the characters because the audience was only privy to periodic splices out of their lives. I didn’t feel that I got the proper chance to know them, but now, taking the sequence year by year, I understand that I had to develop myself in order to better identify with Emma and Dexter’s development. The dynamics between the two, particularly as they hit career shifts, are expertly crafted: my favorite scene by far is the “those who can’t do, teach” argument, given that I’ve been on Emma’s end of this before and experienced her fury. Frustrated with his own shallow, failing career, Dexter attacks Emma’s, resulting in the blowup that won’t be resolved for four years. I love you, Dex, Emma says before running off, I just don’t like you anymore. And there it is: in order for there to be love, there must first be like. So while there are several of things to criticize about this film – the awful repetition of the same four measures of score at every yearly transition, Anne Hathaway’s frustratingly inconsistent Yorkshire accent – this central concept is not one of them.

Revenge, Seasons 1 & 2

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This Catch-Up is written by Telaina Eriksen
Year of Release (originally aired): 2011 & 2012
Rating: TV PG/PG-13 (A lot of people die, leaving a dramatic pool of blood spreading slowly around them.)

Currently Streaming on Netflix?: Yes.
Spoilers: Mild

 

It’s me, your local cheater, bringing television once more into the realm of Catch-Up. I haven’t watched a ton of movies lately that were Catch-Up worthy. We did watch Maleficent this weekend and while I enjoyed that, it is certainly being promo-d enough that it doesn’t need a Catch-Up. Instead, I will write about what my husband calls my soap opera. Since Netflix is my primary source of TV and movies, there are many TV shows I haven’t even heard of that have been on for years. With the increasing fragmentation of cable programming and the speed at which shows are axed, someone with much more pop culture savvy than myself can have trouble keeping up with television shows, let alone me–a busy middle-aged mom who basically watches three “current” TV shows—Game of Thrones, Blacklist, and The Big Bang Theory. I had never heard of Revenge before it popped up in my Netflix as suggested for you! Our best guess for Telaina 5 stars!

I could go into the set of circumstances that made me wander from my stuffed instant queue (oh whoops, “my list”) and click on Revenge, but it would probably be over-sharing. Suffice to say, I’ve had kind of a tough fall and I was looking for some fluffy entertainment.

I decided I would watch one episode of Revenge to see if I liked it. Well here I am, a month later, starting on Season 3. The premise of Revenge seems simple—Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp) moves next door to the Graysons (Madeleine Stowe chews scenery as Victoria Grayson and Henry Czerny looks and acts like a perfect douche as Conrad Grayson) both of whom betrayed her father. Emily plans to emotionally, financially and physically damage them in the same way her father was destroyed. (He was accused of a crime he didn’t commit and was then murdered in prison at their command.) The trouble is, every time Emily succeeds in one of her machinations, she usually triggers someone else to then want to take revenge on the person they think has caused their ill-luck. There is not a Buddhist or a radically compassionate Christian in this group—it’s a mean-spirited bunch, for sure. Sometimes the wronged party identifies this person correctly as Emily but sometimes they fall for Emily’s misdirection and start to wreak havoc on a person who had nothing to do with their current set of circumstances. I would say an innocent person but again, none of these characters are innocent. Also, as much as Emily tries, she can’t control and manipulate everyone, so people are constantly going rogue which then interferes with her intricate schemes.

My favorite character by far is Nolan Ross (Gabriel Mann) who is Emily’s BFF and tech henchman. Nolan wanders through the show stealing every scene that he is in, spouting witticisms and having sex with both men and women as the mood strikes him. The fact that he thinks his bisexuality is unworthy of comment as does Emily, makes me love this show probably way more than I should. I root for Nolan as he kisses both guys and girls, but because he is neck-deep in Emily’s dark plans, he keeps having serious trouble in his love life, regardless of the gender of the person he is dating.

Nolan not only functions as what is left of Emily’s heart and conscience, but he is also the show’s comic relief. With quotes like, “Don’t do anything revenge-y until I get there.” and “I have PTSD—Padma Tyler Sexual Disorder.” (Padma and Tyler are two exes.) “I’m about a three on the Kinsey scale myself.” and “She keeps popping up like the homicidal stripper version of whack-a-mole” and “What? You guys went to revenge camp together?” Nolan keeps this TV melodrama from slipping all the way into General Hospital.

Another thing I love about this show is how it showcases women of all different ages. Madeleine Stowe is 56, and plays her age on the show. Amber Valletta who plays Lydia Davis is 40 and she too, plays right around her age in the show. There are beautiful younger women and beautiful young men, but there is also plenty of opportunities for actresses in their 30s, 40s and 50s to shine. The clothes are lovely—lots of sleeveless dresses cinched at the waist and the high heels! They are all going to keep podiatrists in business. The scenery is gorgeous—though the show really isn’t filmed in the Hamptons—they mix in shots from North Carolina and a few actual Hamptons’ beaches to give it a “no, we don’t shoot in California, not us” feel.

If plot holes and inconsistencies bother you (the white girl has a sensei? really?), this drama may not be for you. But if you loved soap operas as a kid, pop some popcorn and watch Emily and Victoria trade barbs, and Nolan redeem the whole series with his charm and wit.