When you hear “limited release Renee Zellweger movie about a proper lady in the 1950’s who picks herself up by her bootstraps,” you don’t hold out much hope. When you hear “cast of odd, bland C-stringers, including Steve Weber, Eric McCormack, Chris Noth, and Nick Stahl,” you don’t hold out much hope. And when you literally hear Zellweger’s upbraided Southern belle, Anne Deveraux, spit out endless, cutesy aphorisms within the first five minutes of the movie, like, “A man never thinks a woman is smarter than when she's listening to him,” well then, you don’t hold your lunch. Still, even though Zellweger seemingly insists on making a career out of playing characters who are just oh-so-fettered, this particular story, which has her go off on an ill-conceived road trip in search of a gentleman to take care of her and her family, after she’s found her current husband in bed with another woman, amazingly does work. This is thanks to not being asked to root for Zellweger for once, but instead given the pleasure to watch her folly from the cynical eyes of the real main character: her angst-y, aspiring writer son, George.
Like a 1950’s Augusten Burroughs, we watch young George deal with his unorthodox family for a summer as they move around, search for love, make insane decisions, go out of the bounds of their time, and chase the American dream. George has to buy a Cadillac with a lump of cash; he has to drive the car, because according to his mother, it would be improper for a woman to; he has to wrestle down the dangerous men she lets into their lives; and he has to do it alone since his older brother buys into the glamor of it all. It’s a personal, nuanced story that has more in common with a play than a movie, but in the end, the tight, visual script, and happy Hollywood ending, snap it down to convention. It also helps that George is played by Logan Lerman, who is starring in the next Harry Potter franchise-wannabe Percy Jackson and the Olympians. He has a serious but relaxed demeanor that makes him a natural leading man.
Besides Lerman, freshness and ingenuity are also unexpectedly supplied by the aforementioned C-listers. As the famous faces pop in and out of the picture, and Zellweger seems to only get closer with her sons, finding no obvious romance in the crowd, like she expects, the impact is major--just by being so contrasted to Zellweger movie history. At the end of his trip, when school gets back in session for George, he cannot even bring himself to stay in a classroom full of kids who have just led normal, boring lives the whole summer--and you might just feel the same way about returning to a normal, boring rom-coms after this movie.
DVD Bonus Features
Behind the Scenes has interviews with the main cast and crew, and between the injuries sustained, the sets, the 1950’s look that needed to be achieved, the handling of many big stars and an old Cadillac, it’s a pretty good look at the pressures that come with a somewhat expensively-written and cast indie.
Also, I did not know this until after I watched, but it turns out that this movie is based loosely on the life of George Hamilton, who is loosely famous for being an actor. This fact would’ve been helpful information beforehand, because this movie is a slice of life, and the fact that it is the life of someone recognizable, does help it digest. And George Hamilton is disturbingly recognizable.
"My One and Only" is on sale November 10, 2009 and is rated PG13. Comedy, Drama. Directed by Richard Loncraine. Written by Charlie Peters. Starring Chris Noth, David Koechner, Kevin Bacon, Nick Stahl, Renee Zellweger, Logan Lerman, Steven Weber.