“One True Loves” – At a time [MOVIE REVIEW]

Phillipa Soo as Emma. Photo courtesy of The Avenue.

“One True  Loves,” based on the Taylor Jenkins Reid novel (Reid and Alex J. Reid wrote the screenplay), posits the question of whether you can love two different people, have two true loves. 

Phillipa Soo as Emma and Luke Bracey as Jesse. Photo courtesy of The Avenue.

Emma’s infatuation with Jesse seemed hopeless. Hopeless, that is, until he noticed her and that was it for both of them. Standing idly by while Emma swooned was her best friend Sam. But Sam is crushed realizing that his love for Emma will go unrequited as Emma and Jesse begin their lives together. 

Jesse and Emma were meant to be. Moving to California, they shared adventure and travel, romance and curiosity about the world. Their lives would never be sedentary like the lives they left behind. She wrote and he took pictures. They would be together forever. And then one day it all ended. Jesse, on a photographic assignment somewhere in the Pacific, is reported dead in a helicopter crash. Although the bodies of the two pilots are recovered, Jesse’s is not, giving Emma just the amount of hope necessary to stay locked in place, hoping and dreaming. Moving back home to Massachusetts, she started a slow recovery with the help of family.

Four years pass; she has gradually accepted the fact that Jesse is dead. Emma now runs the family bookstore and has rooted herself to the town she grew up in.Then one fateful day, while shopping in town, she runs into Sam, now a music teacher at the local school. Slowly, gradually, they meld. Their interests are similar and the spark he once felt has reignited, but this time in both of them. Happily, they get engaged. But fate rears its head. You can’t really call it an ugly head, but rear it does when Emma receives a phone call…Jesse. He had survived the crash but landed on an abandoned island, finally rescued after four years. What can Emma do? The love of her life has returned and she will have to face the new love of her life. 

Phillipa Soo as Emma and Simu Liu as Sam. Photo courtesy of The Avenue.

And therein lies the conundrum. Does one love cancel the other? 

This is not a new plot. The classic Cary Grant/Irene Dunne/Randolph Scott film “My Favorite Wife” (remade with Doris Day and James Garner in “Move Over, Darling”) looked at it from a comedic standpoint. Grant’s wife Dunne has just been declared dead after having been presumed drowned in a shipwreck. On his wedding day, who should reappear from the dead but Dunne. She and Randolph Scott were survivors stranded on a tropical island for seven years. Grant, however, had only one true love, Dunne, and now he must find a way to extricate himself from this mess. It helps that proposed wife number two is unsympathetic, allowing the audience to side with wife number one.

From a dramatic standpoint, this plot also surfaces in “The Return of Martin Guerre” and “Tomorrow is Forever,” when a husband long presumed dead returns to find his wife has remarried and no longer recognizes him.

But Taylor Jenkins Reid found a new way into this dilemma as Emma must deal with who and what these two “true” loves represent in her life, as well as who she was then and who she is now.

Although this is directed by Andy Fickman (“Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2”) more like a television movie than a feature film, he is lucky that the three lead actors elevate the material more than it deserves. Luke Bracey as Jesse, the all American athlete and golden boy, is charming, endearing and a very effective love interest. He loves adventure almost as much as he loves Emma. Sympathetic, the viewer is not let off easy in terms of the choices that Emma will have to make. Simu Liu as Sam is, by turns, deep, cultured, adoring and insecure. Unlike Jesse, he doesn’t have the self confidence or assurance to stake his claim when he needs to. He didn’t do it when they were kids and is having a hard time trying to do it now when he feels he’s on the cusp of losing her.

Phillipa Soo as Emma and Luke Bracey as Jesse. Photo courtesy of The Avenue.

The effectiveness of the movie lies squarely on the shoulders of Phillipa Soo as Emma. As convincing as an adventuress with Jesse as she is as a quiet young woman of letters with Sam, the conundrum is hers and she doesn’t disappoint.

Everything and everyone else is filler but it’s a pleasant enough filling. I was especially impressed by the seamless addition of a deaf toddler into the mix. The child is unnecessary to the plot but it’s a giant step forward to have a background character with a handicapping condition where it’s treated normally. It wouldn’t have mattered that this child, the niece of Emma, was blue, green, or purple. She’s deaf, both parents sign, and it’s no big deal. 

“One True Loves” is very much like the other novels of Taylor Jenkins Reid, the best selling author of “Malibu Rising” and “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.” Like Chinese food, they are delicious but leave you hungry again soon after. Still, while you’re engaged, she has you.

Opening April 7 at the AMC Del Amo 18 and the AMC Rolling Hills 20, as well as other AMC theaters around Los Angeles County. On digital April 14.


comments so far. Comments posted to EasyReaderNews.com may be reprinted in the Easy Reader print edition, which is published each Thursday.