Monday, May 06, 2019

Tribeca ’19: Plus One

It is a hard truth about weddings that no matter how great they say the food is going to be, it nearly always disappoints. Hopefully, you can get down like a crazy person on the dance floor without getting judged. Then there are the speeches. Alice and Ben do not intend to go through their season of weddings alone. The idea is they will have each other’s back and help each other meet people, but this is a rom-com, so you can probably guess what happens instead in Jeff Chan & Andrew Rhymer’s Plus One, which won the Narrative Film Audience Award during the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival.

During the first of what will become a blur of weddings, Ben is the best man, who very nearly would have laid a massive egg with his speech, were it not for Alice’s constructive criticism. At least, that is how she sees it. She also gets quickly drunk to self-medicate her bitter heartache stemming from the breakup with a longtime boyfriend. The speech is fine, but the wedding is still a disaster for Ben, so he reluctantly agrees to join forces on the next dozen or so weddings they have scheduled between them. That does not even count Ben’s father’s third wedding, which the uptight son remains in denial over, but it includes the nuptials of Alice’s perfect younger sister.

Gosh, do you think maybe Alice and Ben could possibly start falling for each other? Well, right you are. Yet, the thing of it is Maya Erskine is just so witheringly sarcastic and refreshingly inappropriate as Alice, we can just laugh at her verbal barbs and not even worry about the predictable narrative. Honestly, this film could conceivably become a treasury of favorite movie quotes, even more so than When Harry Met Sally (which we have never really felt all that reverential towards).

There is no question Plus One heralds Erskine’s arrival as a major star. She is smart, charismatic, and wickedly droll. Frankly, you have to give Jack Quaid credit for keeping up with her, even though he lacks the same kind of razor-sharp screen presence. In fact, he comes across as a convincing screw-up when the film requires it of him.

This is Erskine’s film, but the great Rosalind Chao temporarily takes control during her all-too-brief, but ever-so-memorable appearances as Alice’s mother, matching Michelle Yeoh’s attitude in Crazy Rich Asians, while coming across as a more grounded figure that you could actually meet in real life. Ed Begley Jr. also has some nice moments as Ben’s father.

You could say there are no surprises in Plus One, but the caustic, willing-to-go-there humor is a jolly good surprise. Look, its funny. Yes, it also ultimately delivers the rom-com goods, so it is easy to see why it won over audiences during its screenings. Recommended for anyone in the mood for a relationship comedy with an acerbic edge, Plus One is set to open theatrically in June, following its award-winning premiere at this year’s Tribeca.