There's a secret lurking in The One I Love, a romantic comedy that's unlike any you've seen before. On its surface, it might seem like just another indie romance starring indie darlings Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass. Sure, the critics have been buzzing since it debuted at Sundance. It's probably pretty good. But what's the rush to see it? Allow me to answer that question: you'll want to see this movie before your friends or co-workers or casual inconsiderate acquaintances spoil its central twist.
It's happened to all of us. Everyone is raving about a movie with a "big twist." You totally mean to see it. And right before you do, some jackass accidentally drops the bomb. The Sixth Sense. The Crying Game. The Usual Suspects. All these are movies that are more entertaining if you don't know that mind-blowing twist in advance.
Now, I want to be clear. The One I Love isn't exactly like these. Its twist is not the third-act-finale kind that forces you to re-evaluate everything. Instead, this crafty comedy delivers its twist at the start of the second act, just 13 minutes into its 91-minute running time. And with it, the movie becomes something unique, unpredictable, and totally mesmerizing. Of course saying there's a twist at all could be considered a spoiler to purists. But you need to understand the urgency of seeing The One I Love before that big mouth in your office/yoga class/trivia night does. You'll enjoy this movie more if you see it before you're spoiled. It's been tested.
During the film's junket (more on that later this week), The One I Love's director Charlie McDowell revealed that the film was shown to two sets of test audiences. One set was told the plot and its twist in advance. The other was told nothing. The second group was more engaged with the film, leaving distributor RADiUS the tricky task of marketing a movie with a secret at its center. Those of us who saw the film in its festival run did not envy them this. But the results are pretty intriguing:
Can you figure out the twist from this? I'm betting not. And so are Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass, who loyally would not address this twist directly when we spoke. Moss said, "If you see the movie, after seeing the trailer, you will think the trailer is the most genius thing you’ve ever seen. The way that is doesn’t reveal what happens, but still talks legitimately about things that happen in the movie. It’s not misleading. It’s very honest, but it’s pretty brilliant."
But more than a movie you need to see right away, The One I Love is one best served by seeing it in a theater. Yes, it's available on VOD. But there's something exhilarating about sharing the dark with a crowd who is as tangled in this clever rom-com as you are. It's an enthralling and fun sense of community as you all take this odd ride together. McDowell explains:
"In seeing it play in so many different places now, it is an audience movie…It’s a movie that feeds off when people start to realize at different places what’s going on…I think it is an important movie to go see in the theatre just because it’s an experience."
He's not wrong.
Look for more from our The One I Love coverage later this week. The One I Love is now on VOD, and opens in limited release on Friday.