Adapted from David Nicholls‘ heralded novel, director Lone Scherfig’s drama One Day aims to lure women in with a crush-worthy leading man Jim Sturgess, the cute but non-threatening romantic hero of Across the Universe, and a modern chick flick mega-star Anne Hathaway. Couple the casting with the sentimental trailer, passion-filled promotional poster and a PG-13 rating, and it’s clear that Scherfig and the film’s producers are gunning for a female audience that includes a large contingent of young and impressionable girls. This makes the film’s message of a woman’s worth all the more infuriating. To be succinct, through this story of frequently near-miss lovers, Scherfig seems to declare a woman’s purpose in life is to better the man she loves after sufficiently making herself worthy of his notice. It’s a demoralizing message that curiously devalues both men and women. And so I don’t come here to review One Day; I come here to eviscerate it.
I think this review hits quite a few of the major issues with this film. Yet again, I’m glad I saw this film for free. It certainly has a fucked up understanding of gender roles and is very stereotypical in its portrayal of the relationship roles. And, of course, when I say “fucked up” and “stereotypical,” what I mean is that, to me, this film isn’t any worse than the lot of romantic comedies, which I find to be frequently some of the worst perpetrators of gender policing.
This article also reminded me of what I found most fascinating about the film, which is Dexter (Jim Sturgess) is constantly confronted with his privilege and he never sees it. Never, ever, ever. This is really no reason for Emma (Anne Hathaway) to stay friends with this guy for 20 some years. He’s an asshole! Everyone always tells them this! He never changes! And, yet, we’re supposed to feel for this awful guy.
It’s really interesting. At certain points, I felt like this film was going to be about the white male lead having to confront the fact that he’s been screwing around his whole life to the top because A.) he’s a white male, B.) He comes from wealth, and C.) He’s educated, and he takes everything for granted. He doesn’t have a good relationship with his parents and treats them like shit. The opening scene of the film is about him meeting Emma and treating her like shit. For twenty years, they get together on the same day every year and he treats her like shit. He treats himself like shit.
Meanwhile, Emma is white, well educated, and certainly doesn’t come from poverty, but she has to struggle. She struggles all her life. It appears that she sticks with Dexter merely because she wants to believe that someone she went to college with can be successful and famous, and therefore she can follow her dreams like he has. She has to take shit jobs, she marries a horrible guy, she changes paths. She has to fight three times as hard as Dexter to be successful when it is quite possible that they come from the same background.
But, this isn’t about Dexter’s privilege, because he never confronts it. The two most important females in the film die, (Largely to motivate the audience to continue to feel bad for our male lead who really hasn’t done anything to deserve our pity, besides being gorgeous. He’s a beautiful specimen, it’s true!) and we’re supposed to feel kind of happy about Dexter learning something? What does he learn? I don’t see it. We should be happy for this couple? I didn’t.
On a smaller note, this film identifies Anne Hathaway’s character as a feminist pretty early on. I’ve got to say that, from my experience, this film has no idea what a feminist is. Again, a stereotype of hollywood films, a “feminist” is a woman who’s prudish, a virgin, and needs a man to liven her up. Women aren’t boring, hollywood. Quit telling them they need men. Quit telling women that they aren’t whole on their own (Of course, Dexter, too, isn’t whole on his own. The whole notion of people “completing” one another in films, while emotional and heartwarming at times, is kind of a fucked up concept, because it’s part of the system that tells us we shouldn’t love ourselves, I think.)
On an even smaller note, part of the reason I couldn’t enjoy this film is that it’s made clear that these two see each other more than once a year. So, then…what’s so exciting about the audience only seeing them once a year? I just don’t get it.
Think I’ll take a rain check on this one. Thanks.