| Anne Hathaway ("The Devil Wears Prada") and Jim Sturgess ("Across the Universe") star in this romantic drama directed by Lone Scherfig ("An Education") based on the bestselling novel by David Nicholls.
The clock ticks back to July 15, 1988 which marks the evening of Emma Morley (Hathaway) and Dexter Mayhew's (Sturgess) college graduation. They are dressed in cap and gown walking together with a group of fellow graduates. Dexter introduces himself and ends up walking Emma home. This begins a friendship that lasts nearly two decades.
The movie is disjointed by nature, because the main gimmick is to revisit these superficially drawn lead characters every July 15th through 2011. These yearly snapshots go barely beyond a Christmas card in showing what is happening in their respective lives.
Their careers go up and down like a teeter tooter. Dexter's career skyrockets as the host of a television show while Emma marks time going nowhere waitressing in a Mexican restaurant. The fickle finger of fate turns things completely around when Emma becomes a successful novelist and Dexter wallows in depression as a cuckolded divorcee.
The movie is ultimately about missed opportunities and realizing too late that your soul mate has been right under your nose all along. The timing always seems to be off for a fulfilling romance to develop.
I never bought the connection and thought the lovey-dovey chemistry was artificially manufactured between Emma and Dexter. The movie has the audience conjecturing why a spontaneous playboy and an ugly duckling prude hang on to such a tenuous friendship. After about an hour, you lose interest and no longer care about this drawn-out soap opera.
This bittersweet drama pulls the rug out from under you after appearing to achieve a satisfactory emotional pairing. A tragic sequence reflecting the uncertainty of life sends the viewer into the doldrums. The filmmakers make a last stab to foster goodwill by a concluding afterthought.
A similar short-term tactic measured in days worked for last year's "(500) Days of Summer". The long-term yearly check-in was more successful in "Same Time, Next Year" and "When Harry Met Sally."
Hathaway employs a fake British accent. She makes a remarkable transformation from mousy and unattractive to beautiful once fame and fortune come her way. Sturgess has the pretty boy looks, but the charm, likability and screen presence of a Hugh Grant is missing.
Another failing of the film is the short shrift given to the supporting characters. Patricia Clarkson ("Friends with Benefits") is reduced to a bit player as Dexter's mother. Romola Garai ("Atonement") acts like a guest star with her peek-a-boo appearance as Dexter's unfaithful wife. She filmed her scenes during a break from starring in a BBC four-part psychological thriller.
Also on the negative side of the ledger is the desaturated cinematography that drains out the color and makes everything appear drab and washed out on the screen.
The terrific musical score by Rachel Portman and the scenic background locations in Paris, London and Edinburgh are the movie's only saving graces.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"