Producers: Geneva Wasserman, Ken Mok, Tim Marlowe, Jason Bourque and Sean Fernald Director: Ken Mok Screenplay: Ken Mok Cast: Nick Thune, Cleopatra Coleman, Iliza Shlesinger, David Koechner, MJ Kokolis, Trezzo Mahoro, Lauren McGibbon and Amy Goodmurphy Distributor: Lionsgate
One can find a few isolated pleasures in Ken Mok’s mediocre romantic comedy-drama, but they’re fleeting, and far outnumbered by the stream of misjudgments that plague it. “The Right One” is almost totally wrongheaded.
Cleopatra Coleman stars as Sara, a successful author who’s hit a bout of writers’ block despite the fact that her agent Kelly (Iliza Shlesinger) keeps pressuring her about the contract she has to fulfill. It’s while searching for inspiration that she bumps into a fellow named Godfrey (Nick Thune) she finds in a whole variety of places but in different guises.
So on one occasion he’s a cowboy singer regaling some folks on the Seattle sidewalk. Then he’s a pompous art critic booming out pronouncements at a gallery opening, or an artist explaining his work to rapt attendees. Then he’s declaiming at a poetry dive, or singing in drag at a club. She’s fascinated by him, and asks that they meet somewhere, and soon they’re on a date, where he’s an Argentinean dancer. Then they’re in bed, though apparently platonic about it.
We’ve also been introduced to him at his job as a telephone sales rep, in which capacity he wears a Mohawk, dresses in wildly-colored clothes and prances around the office, which disturbs a visiting executive from Ohio named Bob (David Koechner) until he’s informed that the guy is their best salesman by far—and an aficionado of the same harmonica-playing singer the exec loves too. In his spare time, we learn, the fellow also performs puppet shows and read books for kids at schools and libraries.
Sara’s nonplussed but still fascinated, feelings that escalate when she’s approached by a shrill young guy, a drug dealer called Shad (MJ Kokolis), who warns her to stay away the odd fellow, claiming to be his brother. Eventually he reveals Godfrey’s secret: he can live an ordinary life in society only in the various guises he adopts. As himself, he’s haunted by the death of their young sister, for which he blames himself, and in a perpetual depressive state.
Now the movie, which has been a drearily unfunny romantic comedy pairing the incessantly chirpy Coleman with the desperately overbroad Thune (no Peter Sellers at adopting different personas), becomes a sappy drama after Godfrey slips into a deep funk after learning that Sara has been taking notes on him to use in writing her new book. One might think it would take years of therapy to lift him out of it, but in this case all it takes is a cute dress-up by Sara.
One supposes this cop-out conclusion is meant to constitute a happy ending, but it comes across as not just feeble but false, though to be fair you might find these two deserve one another. As directed by Mok, who, together with editor Asim Nuraney, allows the picture’s pace to flag all too often, both stars prove irritating rather than charming. To make matters worse, Mok encourages his supporting cast to overdo things so shrilly that most are unendurable. That comes naturally to Koechner, for whom understatement has always seemed a foreign concept; but it’s hard to discern the purpose of having Shlesinger scream her way through her scenes, or Kokolis do nothing but snarl and rage, or even walk-ons like Lauren McGibbon (as an office supervisor) and Amy Goodmurphy (as a publishing executive) come on so stridently—unless Mok recognized that the material he was asking them to deliver was so threadbare.
Visually “The Right One” looks like a garish TV sitcom, with Sean Kirkby’s bright production design reflected in the glossy cinematography by Graham and Nelson Talbot. Heather Lee Douglas must have had a field day fashioning all of Godfrey’s costumes, but they can’t cover up the thinness of the script. Ceiri Torjussen has contributed a score that’s largely forgettable, apart from when it incorporates the music of others (like the Shostakovich waltz Kubrick also employed).
“The Right One” might have worked as either a screwball comedy or a heartfelt drama about grief. By trying to be both, it succeeds as neither.