I deeply despise the characters as brought to life on the screen. This is not the Em and Dex from the book but two horribly unhappy, horribly unappealing people. Spending one single hour of your life with the film's Dex and Em is a mind-numbingly boring experience. If I could, I'd travel back in time to the moment I sat down in the theater to watch One Day, yank myself up and out of the screening, and tell myself that for the sake of my admiration and positive memories of the book, never, ever watch the film adaptation. Ever.
The Film's Plot:
Em (played by Anne Hathaway) is shy, Dex (played by Jim Sturgess) is outgoing. Em is not sexually active while Dex has a different girl in his bed every night. Dex's time in college was spent partying while Em spent her time with her nose in the books (this is obvious because she wears glasses and must, therefore, be both smart and studious). Still, on their last night before leaving college for good, the two somehow wind up together. From there sprouts a friendship which lasts for decades, even though they only see each other once a year on July 15th. They grow up, grow apart, grow together, hate each other, love each other, and generally make each other alternately miserable and happy, until finally we reach the end of the film after what feels like an eternity of July 15ths that all meld together into one blobby mess.
The Cast and the Bottom Line
Anne Hathaway is horribly miscast and her accent...well, we may have to boot someone off our Top 10 Worst Accents in Movies list to make room for Hathaway's British/occasionally Scottish/maybe it's Irish/let's forget about it and just do American accent in One Day. Now, we might be able to overlook this accent problem (and I'm stressing might here) if A) there were no British actresses capable of handling the part and B) there was even the slightest bit of chemistry between Hathaway and Jim Sturgess. But because there are hundreds of British actresses who could have played Em, and because there's zero chemistry between the two people who are on the screen 90% of the time, there's absolutely no reason the filmmaker had to go with Hathaway. Hathaway is a fine actress (she showed what she's capable of given the right material with Rachel Getting Married, Alice in Wonderland, and The Devil Wears Prada), but One Day will never be held up as one of her finest achievements. This just isn't the role for her.
Jim Sturgess, on the other hand, is right for Dex. Had Nicholls' script done justice to his book, Sturgess as Dex would have been absolutely the right choice. There are moments - albeit brief in duration - in which Sturgess nails Dex. If the script had had more depth, those moments provide us with a glimpse at how good Sturgess could have been in the role.
Much of what made the book such an entertaining read had to do with the letters exchanged between Dex and Em over the years. They poured their hearts out to each other, revealing their weaknesses and admitting their flaws. Basically, through those letters Dex and Em became real. The film has barely a mention of the letters, which would be okay if there was anything substituted in to fill out the backstory, to make these two beautifully written characters spring to life on the big screen. But there's not, and because of that nothing about their friendship throughout the years as adults means anything to the audience. We don't know these people and worse, we are never given any reason to care about their relationship or to understand their motivations (other than on the most superficial level). Instead, all I could think of during the screening was, "Get together, don't get together, I don't care. Just get it over with." And that's not the book I know and love.
One Day was directed by Lone Scherfig and is rated PG-13 for sexual content, partial nudity, language, some violence and substance abuse.
Theatrical Release: August 19, 2011