Incurable romantics seeking a fresh look at love contemporary-style could do a lot worse than Plus One. This charming little independent film, by the first-time writing-directing team of Jeff Chan and Andrew Rhymer, also introduces two vibrant new stars in Jack Quaid and Maya Erskine as Ben and Alice, a pair of college graduates who have plunged into responsible jobs and independent lifestyles, while everyone around them is settling for teamwork on the marriage market. The movie is about a number of modern issues, but mainly it explores the factors that eventually convince Ben and Alice to join the big parade to the altar themselves.
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During a summer when everyone they know is infected with wedding fever, reluctant Ben and his cynical friend Alice make a pact to resist. Ben makes a “best man” speech for his best friend while Alice recoils in disgust. She’s got four more weddings to get through. He’s got six. Even Ben’s father, already a two-time loser, announces he’s planning a third marriage.
PLUS ONE ★★★
Dreading all of this togetherness, Alice commits to helping Ben find girls with no strings attached and Ben is willing to assist Alice in exploring her own relationship opportunities, but they abhor the idea of anything permanent. There’s nothing sexy about their friendship, although she feels so close that she even spends the night with him, sharing the same bed, while he re-lives the good old days with his pals, none of whom are available for fun and games anymore.
In time, they realize the only way they can survive all of these depressing weddings is with each other, playing the “plus one” game as members of various ceremonies, which they decide is the only way to get through a series of ordeals with their ideals unchallenged and their freedom intact.
The film unfolds in sequences that are held together by all the weddings they attend—young and old, straight and gay, joyous and miserable—and although each one is different, they all serve to remind them of the same thing—marriage is toxic, commitment is lethal. It’s obvious that they drink too much while pretending to act positive, but the more candor they share, the closer they get, until eventually, they realize to their surprise that they find in each other what they dislike in everyone else.
As they suffer through the endless speeches, guzzle the bottomless magnums of champagne and gain weight from the voluminous supply of wedding cakes, they discover sex at last, and their own relationship strengthens and progresses. Fearing they are turning into the people they never wanted to be, they break up, miss the elements that set them apart from everyone else, get back together, and break up again while the movie threatens to drag on, at times, as endlessly as the wedding breakfasts.
It’s long and repetitive, but Plus One builds to a modest but likable conclusion, thanks to a script that is raunchy but clever and the chemistry and magnetism of the two stars. Quaid’s Ben is handsome, natural and camera ready, while Erskine has a quality that is rare—an energy without working too hard to seem lively. They are individually appealing, but together they are dynamite.
As they find togetherness and romance through trial and error, the film’s most valuable theme rises above the tempestuous rancor that passes for romance on the screen today: if you spend your life looking for perfection, you run the risk of ending up with nothing.