Howdy, folks! I wanted to let you know about a film that’s hitting theaters today called ONE TRUE LOVES, adapted from the novel and written for the screen by Taylor Jenkins Reid (author of THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO) along with her husband Alex Jenkins Reid. The film is directed by Andy Fickman and produced by Sarah Finn (yes, the casting director for all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and a producer of EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE) and starring Simu Liu (SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS, “Kim’s Convenience”), Luke Bracey (POINT BREAK, G.I. JOE - RETALIATION), Phillipa Soo (‘Hamilton”), and Michaela Conlin (“Bones’). Check out the trailer:
The film intrigued me with its storyline of soulmates and the idea that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Emma has an impossible decision on her hands when the husband she thought was dead reappears and expects her to go back to him as though nothing happened and no time was lost. (If you’re thinking of Helen Hunt’s character’s dilemma in CASTAWAY then you’re in my head, now.) The film does a good job of navigating that dilemma and Phillipa Soo does great work wearing the struggle on her sleeve as she tries to reconcile the idea of having Two True Loves. Simu Liu is fantastic as the hangdog lovelorn Sam, sort of caught in the wake of this miracle that has become his personal tragedy, and Luke Bracey does great work as the haunted Jesse, brought back to a world that he hardly recognizes after four years alone on a desert island.
While everyone involved with the film from the writing to the directing to the acting does a wonderful job, the film we’re presented with isn’t actually very good. It was painful to watch and I truly felt it was one of the worst movies I’d ever seen. I’m sad to say this because I met a lot of the creatives behind the movie and they’re all lovely people, and I wish I’d seen this film as a test screening so I could offer some feedback because I think it’s really just bad editing, so it could be conceivably “fixed.” Perhaps the adaptation clung too tightly to the book’s format, but the opening of the film is cut with so many frequent flashbacks that the pacing just sets the viewer off their kilter almost immediately. Later on, when there’s a tense scene with two principles across the room from one another, the edit lingers too long on one or the other and the pacing of their intense conversation seems strained and stretched. It takes one out of the scene. Similarly, the film struggles with its tone. It’s billed as a romantic comedy but there is very little funny about Jesse or Sam’s situation, or the dilemma Emma is plunged into. Simu mines his scenes with his high school orchestra class for good light laughs and Michaela Conlin does fine work as the unlikely voice of reason throughout, and I wish I could celebrate this film more because the diversity and hard work is in there, though the finished cut does not do it justice.
I got to attend the red carpet premiere last week and chat with some of the folks attending, and they couldn’t have been any lovelier.
Eric McClanahan - Sarah Finn, what brought you on board this project?
Sarah Finn - Taylor Jenkins Reid, who wrote the novel and many others and is just blowing up, is my former casting assistant. She worked for me for several years in casting and she was always wanting to write. She’d come in after the weekend and say “Oh, I didn’t have time to write.” So I said “I just really think you should stop casting and try writing,” and within six months she had gotten her first book deal and the rest is history. So when this script came to me from Andy [Fickman] with Taylor’s name and Alex’s name I said yes before I took a breath. I was so excited to work on this, and then we had Simu Liu coming in who I’d worked with on SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS and it has just been a lovely coming together. The film has felt like a family and it’s very exciting to see it here tonight.
Eric McClanahan - Alex Jenkins Reid, this film is about soulmates but it’s also about that old adage that Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder. What’s your take on that old tale?
Alex Jenkins Reid - I feel like that’s a good point, so much of a relationship, and I’m not an expert by any means, but it’s the effort that you put into it whether you are together or apart, and I think there’s opportunities in any situation, whether you’re with somebody all the time or whether there’s a distance there. But the movie definitely explores those things: the idea of a soulmate, if there is one, doesn’t mean that everything’s smooth sailing from there on out. You still have to put in effort, work hard to make it work, and I think this movie is very much about that.
EM - I think both Sam and Jesse have to make up for lost time. Jesse for the time he was on a desert island, Sam for the time he didn’t make that choice back at the keg party at the beginning of the film. This film allows both of them the opportunity to reconcile those distances, which I don’t think has been explored on film or in pages quite like this before so thank you.
AJR - I love that. Thank you! I feel like there are moments that define you, whether it’s something you did right or something you did wrong, you’re thinking about it. Especially with Jesse whose on this desert island and the thing that’s keeping him going is this idea of being reunited with his wife. I imagine that’s what I would be doing, too, in that situation. And I also think my wife in that situation would have to, at some point, move on or else she’d stop living and they’re in very different places when they meet up again, through no fault of their own. The book does a great job of it and I hope the movie does, as well, to show how they reconcile that. And you’re totally right about Sam, who asks “What if I had been more courageous or what if I had done this thing?”
EM - Right? He’s on his own desert island. A desert island of the soul.
AJR - We should switch this. I feel like I should film you. That’s totally right.
EM - One more question: I have the benefit of seeing the film but I haven’t read the book. Is there more in the book about what Jesse endure on the island and is there a reason we chose not to go that far into it with the film? Is there a tonality issue with that? Where was that time?
AJR - I think it was a thing of the interest center and the moral center of something. Sometimes it can be that by depicting something, not that you’re endorsing torturing someone on an island, but it can become something like “Ooh, the effects or how much weight had he lost?” And it’s really not about this. Let’s just get to that, he’s been gone, I think Luke’s acting is a great performance of a man whose been deserted, so let’s not worry about his ribs poking out, let’s get to the meat of this thing and the conflict of this thing a little bit quicker than in the book.
Eric McClanahan - Luke Bracey, not much is seen about Jesse’s time on the island. For your performance, did you try to fill in any of that backstory?
Luke Bracey - I tried to but four years is a lot of backstory, so I did some broad strokes in a way. Like, after the initial shock of being there has worn off there’s the business of survival, then sort of creating a routine that is going to keep your mind and body safe, and then you’re just holding onto hope really. So it was a long stretch. Obviously I can’t fully understand what the guy went through but I did my best to try to fill in the gaps.
I think Luke summed up the central story of ONE TRUE LOVES best when he said "You have to grow together with someone, you have to keep evolving as people and as a couple, and I think it’s a few different entities that need to make their way through."
ONE TRUE LOVES releases in theaters today, On Digital April 14th, and On Demand April 28th.
Take care of one another!
-McEric, aka Eric McClanahan-