March 25, 2023

Digital review – Plus One (2019)


Weddings can be a minefield when you’re single. They all come at once, inevitably when you’re going solo and, if you didn’t feel acutely aware of that beforehand, by the time you get there, it’s unavoidable. Not that anybody sets out to make you feel uncomfortable – after all, it’s a celebration of love of happiness – but it happens, so there’s only one solution: bring along a plus one, another singleton who you know really well. Even if the only person they know at the wedding is you. Yep, a minefield.

And it’s exactly where Alice (Maya Erskine) and Ben (Jack Quaid) find themselves in Plus One. Long standing single friends who are facing a succession of weddings, they decide to accompany each other to ease their mutual pain. Hers is worse, though, because she’s going through an agonising break up and it’s taking its inevitable time. Will they, won’t they? You do the math.

While they’re not the most original of narrative devices, weddings are full of possibilities and, as such, a gift to screenwriters. More so than any other social gathering, and we’ve certainly been here before. Some of the premise here is more than a little reminiscent of last year’s Keanu/Winona vehicle, Destination Wedding, but director/writers Jeff Chan and Andrew Rhymer take Plus One down a much more conventional road. While its predecessor came at the subject from a different angle, with two unsympathetic characters monopolising the dialogue and the frame, the couple inching towards each other in this instance are much more likeable and we get to hear from the people around them as well.

Admittedly, Plus One’s double act is hardly ever off the screen, either singly or as a pair, but you can see where it’s leading almost from the start, especially when Ben’s dad (Ed Begley Junior) announces his intention to get married for the third time and wants his son to be best man. Denouement sorted, then. And, once that’s established, the route there meanders all over the place, with some agreeably funny moments, but with a series of secondary characters that are, in the main, sketchily drawn and have little or no chance of ever developing further.

It’s a charming film, with an appealing pair of leads who work well together. Maya Erskine’s energy positive leaps off the screen – although the temptation to imagine Awkwafina in the role is irresistible – and she’s a good counterbalance for Jack Quaid’s lower key, often awkward, Ben. Not that the film tells us anything new about love, apart from the inevitable reminder that crossing the line from friendship to relationship can be a huge step fraught with difficulties – and that there’s no going back. But it’s a pleasant enough way to spend an hour and a half. Not that you need a plus one for it. In fact, watching it alone might actually be more enjoyable.

★★ 1/2

Romance, Comedy | Digital | Vertigo Releasing| UK, 7 February 2020 | Dirs. Jeff Chan, Andrew Rhymer | Maya Erskine, Jack Quaid, Ed Begley Jnr.