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One and Only '50s family melodrama a mixed bag
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One and Only '50s family melodrama a mixed bag

by Scott Rice - SGN Contributing Writer

My One and Only
Now Playing


I wasn't expecting much. My One and Only, directed by Brit Richard Loncraine (Wimbledon), sounded like a vanity pic produced by a D-list has-been with too much money and too many connections who is way too fascinated with his own story. While I wasn't totally off the mark, there are still some things to like with this melodramatic period piece set against the highway car culture of 1950s America.

The cars were lower, wider, and longer. The interstate system was taking shape. Rockets to outer space were on the verge of reality. America was in love with itself and its post-war prosperity. When you went to movies, or better yet, flicked on the television in your very own living room, all you saw was perfection. The perfect clothes, the perfect car, and nothing but happy endings all around. Too bad life couldn't imitate the images.

That's why I first fell in love with the beats. Kerouac and crew chipped away at the lovely veneer of 1950s America with pen and ink and an exhausted insistence on bearing witness to those characters not shown in prime-time advertisements.

And that's why I love contemporary movies set in the '50s. It may be akin to shooting fish in a barrel, but I'm fascinated by modern attempts to capture the dissonance between a '50s era Madison Avenue kitchen and the real thing on an anonymous street in an anonymous Springfield, US of A.

I'm thinking of Todd Haynes's lovely homage to Douglas Sirk, Far from Heaven, Stephen Daldry's The Hours, and Sam Mendes's Revolutionary Road.

Anne Devereaux (Renée Zellweger) catches her one-hit-wonder bandleader husband (Kevin Bacon) in bed with his singer. Unshaken in that '50s sort of way, Anne buys a Cadillac Eldorado and scoops up her two sons George (Logan Lerman) and Robbie (Mark Rendall) from their ritzy private schools and their ritzy New York high-rise and heads out on the road to find a man who will make everything all right - again, in that '50s sort of way.

I still don't get Renee Zelwegger. Every squinty-eyed chipmunk-cheeked pouty-lipped inch of her is a mystery to me. I think she might be okay here, but I find her so irritating that I'm not sure.

The supporting cast does good work with fun turns by Eric McCormack, Chris Noth, Steven Weber, and a scene-stealing David Koechner as one-note send-ups of suitors for Anne. Sure, the actors have little to work with, but all wade bravely into the roles as men who seem almost perfect, almost.

Molly C. Quinn steals a couple of scenes as the girl next door, and Bacon is great as usual as the father. It would have been nice to see a bit more of him.

Young Lerman as George Devereaux, a thinly veiled George Hamilton (Where the Boys Are), is the center of the story and the narrator. George loves Catcher in the Rye (argh!) and seems wise beyond his years, yet still has room to learn a couple of things. Holden, where are you when we need you? He tells the story knowing it won't ring true because it's all too fantastic, and yet he sells it anyway. Sometimes life does imitate art, or whatever this movie is.

George's half-brother, Robbie (Rendall) is my favorite character. Rendall is perfect as the older sibling with a knack for needlepoint and an eye for color. He is unabashedly Queer, even a bit nelly, without once seeming cartoonish. The character is totally secure in his identity and supported at every turn by the immediate family. Sure, outsiders can seem uncomfortable with him or employ the easiest epithet in anger, but the family knows who their boy is and seems unquestionably supportive.

My One and Only most certainly is a vanity pic produced by a D-list has-been (sorry, Mr. Hamilton) with too much money and too many connections who is way too fascinated with his own story. And who gets way too much sun, by the by. However, it's also solid family melodrama (I don't use that as a pejorative) with awesome costumes and period-perfect art direction that looks back to the '50s with a knowing wink, even if it takes itself a tad too seriously at times. If you like '50s era family melodrama, check it out.

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