Tag Archives: B

THE ONE I LOVE

It’s impossible to write about “The One I Love” in too great detail for fear of spilling the beans about the major plot device in Justin Lader’s script, though some writers will probably do precisely that and spoil the surprise. Suffice it to say that the initial narrative turn, along with the clever twists that follow from it, proves the major reason why this modestly-budgeted, small-scaled picture, while not without its flaws, is worth seeing.

The film begins with married couple Ethan (Mark Duplass) and Sophie (Elisabeth Moss) consulting a therapist (Ted Danson) about relationship difficulties. After diagnosing them as not being on the same wavelength, he suggests that they spend some time at an isolated retreat where they might recover their passion for one another. It’s a beautiful house on a large estate, and comes equipped with an adjoining guesthouse that becomes the crux of the mysteries that arise during their stay. It appears that the place might be occupied by another couple who could pose a threat to Ethan and Sophie, although what that threat might be will only gradually be revealed.

At one point in “The One I Love,” Ethan mentions “The Twilight Zone,” and it’s an appropriate reference for a story based on a seemingly inexplicable, perhaps supernatural situation. Unlike Rod Serling’s anthology program, however, it doesn’t bother to offer a rational resolution to the circumstance it posits, and that lack might well put off viewers who appreciate not being left hanging. On the other hand, the wooziness of the finale is of a piece with what’s preceded.

One might also point to some modern productions of Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte,” in which Don Alfonso is portrayed as arranging a swap between the opera’s pairs of lovers because he knows they’re mismatched, as an analogue to what’s going on in Lader’s screenplay. Or perhaps not—one can posit any number of sci-fi explanations instead.

Whatever you decide, though—or whether you decide what the meaning of the movie is at all—the fact remains that once the original set-up is accepted, Lader moves it forward nimbly, and first-time director Charlie McDowell responds with a surprisingly assured follow-through. They’re blessed by utterly committed work from Duplass and Moss, with the former doing most of the heavy lifting but the latter complementing him nicely. Danson contributes a nifty cameo as the therapist whose unusual techniques might conceal a more sinister motive.

Equally important is the technical side of the production. Theresa Guleserian’s production design, Bree Daniel’s costumes and Jennifer Lilly’s editing are elements especially integral to pulling off the picture’s central trick, but Doug Emmett’s cinematography and the score by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans are also significant to achieving the right overall mood.

“The One I Love” is, however, not only one of those movies one doesn’t want to describe too explicitly for fear of letting the cat out of the bag. It’s also one you don’t want to overpraise and lead people to expect too much of. In many respects it’s a slight piece that, like some of Woody Allen’s films, is predicated on a rather slender, indeed precious, premise. But also like Allen’s best efforts, or like Mozart and Da Ponte in “Cosi,” it uses what initially seems a slight, even ludicrous conceit to treat of deeper relationship issues in an intelligent, sophisticated way. Exactly how it does that is something that should be left to each viewer to discover.

But one can imagine that Serling is looking down on what transpires with a smile.

ISLAND OF LEMURS: MADAGASCAR

One needn’t tarry too long over “Island of Lemurs: Madagascar,” an Imax nature documentary that recalls the old Disney live-action outdoor shorts of the 1950s. Beautifully shot, with 3D an added bonus, it’s precisely the sort of environmentally-conscious piece this venue has provided before, and apart from one element it’s a thoroughly likable, though hardly overwhelming, travelogue.

The success of the DreamWorks series of “Madagascar” features and the cable TV series that followed upon them have, of course, made lemurs the new penguins in terms of cuddle factor. And while the ones captured on film here don’t sing the way Sacha Baron Cohen’s crew did, we do see them swinging from tree to tree and—in the case of one group—doing their characteristic jumping-jack dance. The purpose of the 40-minute picture—narrated, almost inevitably, by the sonorous Morgan Freeman—is, however, to be educational as well as entertaining. It aims to inform the audience about the danger of extinction that faces the lemurs on Madagascar, the only place in the world where they’re found, as a result of human encroachment, and implicitly to encourage activism on their behalf.

And so after a brief history lesson—explaining how lemurs arrived on the uninhabited island as castaways from Africa some sixty million years ago and flourished there, evolving into a variety of species—writer Drew Fellman and director David Douglas turn to the present, introducing Patricia C. Wright, a primatologist at Stony Brook University who has devoted her life to the study of the lemurs and been instrumental in trying to secure safe havens for them in Madagascar. The problem, as she explains, began with the arrival of humans, whose practice of deforestation through fire has gradually reduced the areas where the lemurs can survive to relatively small pockets of wilderness.

The film follows Wright, whose efforts were instrumental in encouraging the establishment of a protected rainforest and who has worked on site not only to locate species presumed to be extinct but, as one episode recorded here shows, to bring members of endangered species together to increase the population. Other scientists are shown studying the animals—most notably the tiny mouse lemurs—in their labs before releasing them back into the forest, a process that Freeman describes as analogous to tales of human abduction by aliens. Note is also taken of progressive ideas about conservation among the local villagers, particularly the young, whose awareness about the plight of the lemurs has led them in turn to educate their elders about the need to protect them.

For all the information the film offers, however, it’s likely that viewers will most appreciate the superb footage of lemurs in the wild that Douglas, also serving as cinematographer, shot and editor Beth Spiegel has expertly stitched together. Some of it—most notably that of ring-tailed lemurs in the rugged, craggy terrain they’ve adopted as a kind of natural fortress—is quite breathtaking, while other episodes, in which the animals appear to be as curious about humans as the scientists are about them, are less awesome but pleasant nonetheless.

The one contribution that’s questionable is the score by the usually dependable Mark Mothersbaugh, which is not only too busy but weirdly eclectic, using bits and pieces from sources as varied as Richard Strauss (the opening fanfare from “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” of course) to Cole Porter and beyond. One can appreciate the composer’s inclination to juice up the visuals, but here he’s overstepped.

“Island of Lemurs” doesn’t equal the pull of “March of the Penguins,” but like the critters in “Madagascar,” they can happily coexist.