THE ONE I LOVE (Charlie McDowell). 91 minutes. Opens Friday (August 22). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NNN
Sometimes a premise is too good and a writer can't find a way to write himself out of it. That's what happens to screenwriter Justin Lader in The One I Love.
Sophie (Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss)and Ethan's (Mark Duplass) marriage is in deep trouble. When a therapist (Ted Danson) sends them to a gorgeous country retreat to revitalize their relationship, they enter something out of the Twilight Zone.
I can't give away the strange narrative turn the pic takes, but I can say that while inhabiting this Charlie Kaufmanesque landscape, the couple explore who they were and who they might be. Along the way, Lader contemplates the power of jealousy, the yearning for what's lost and the question of personal identity.
Moss and Duplass are engaging actors in demanding roles - it's virtually a two-hander that works via delicate nuance - and the brisk, sly and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny script is savvy enough to make you wonder if you want the marriage to survive.
Smart, for sure, until the end, when Lader cheats and turns a clever script into something pedestrian.