2019 TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL: The inherent discomfort of being single at a wedding courses through the veins of “Plus One.” This charming romantic comedy goes to a lot of expected places, though the appeal of the cast smoothes the ride greatly. Witty dialogue and natural characters give the movie a welcome spin. Watching the leads say all the thoughts most guests think as the spouses say “I do” is consistently a pleasing endeavor.
“Plus One” gives the cinematic world a pair of romantic comedy leads who defy some expectations. Even when the screenplay is resolute to follow a pre-determined arc, the protagonists avoid the path. Whether it’s offhand remarks, wry comments, or the depression that can come from feeling left out in love, they rightly zig when the film itself wants to blandly zag.
Wedding season is rough for single folks. For longtime single pals Alice (Maya Erskine) and Ben (Jack Quaid), they’ve come up with a plan to combat the wedding blues. They’ll be each other’s plus ones at the deluge of ceremonies they’ve both been invited to. At first, it’s fun, allowing them to spar with each other and go on some adventures. However, both have issues with exes, while Alice secretly pines for Ben, a delusional guy who falls not for women, but for the ideas of women.
As they navigate nuptial after nuptial, the pair confront growing feelings for one another. Alice sees it as a positive, falling in love with Ben, though he isn’t as committed. Moreover, he’s working through his father (Ed Begley Jr.) getting married again and asking him to be his best man. It all moves together a blow up and make up, as is required for the genre. Luckily, on the way to that trope, there’s plenty of humor, wit, and sparkling dialogue to go around.
A film like this only works if the audience cares about the central duo. More than up to the task, Maya Erskine and Jack Quaid make both an appealing buddy comedy pair as well as a romantic coupling. Erskine is comedic gold, with brash comments and raunchy comedy straight out of a Judd Apatow production. Then, when she brings up emotions, the audience sees a whole new layer to her performance, which is the movie’s standout turn. As for Quaid, he’s more of your standard romantic comedy male lead, though some of his offhand remarks are layered with more depth than normal. They make a wonderful couple, though Erskine is best in show. Ed Begley Jr. makes the most of his supporting role, while cameos for Beck Bennett, Maya Kazan, Perry Reeves, and Finn Wittrock offer staunch support to the main players.
Filmmakers Jeff Chan and Andrew Rhymer don’t elevate the genre, though they liven it up a bit. Their “Plus One” script is superior to their direction, as the writing has way more personality than their standard directorial choices. Chan and Rhymer are interested in their two characters on a deep level, and it shows. They lack the visual tools to elevate the story, so instead they rely on polished dialogue.
“Plus One” will please fans of romantic comedies with a bit of an edge. It’s hardly a raunch-fest, but the sharpness to the humor is a nice addendum to the genre requirements. A solid romantic comedy can bring about smiles more than any other type of film. To that end, this is a success. There isn’t anything revolutionary here, just some slight quirk that adds to the experience. Tribeca was lucky to have this movie at their 2019 festival.