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"The One I Love": A Couples' Retreat Gets Weird 

Tuesday, Aug 19 2014
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The creators of The One I Love have been doing interviews (see ours at sfweekly.com) and taking good care not to drop spoilers, but they already made the movie unspoilable by just running with, instead of explaining, its surreal twist. Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass, both in fine form, play a couple whose marriage is in trouble. Their therapist, played by Ted Danson, prescribes a weekend away in a sun-kissed Ojai country house — from which other couples have emerged, the therapist says, as if renewed. This couple gives it a shot. It goes uncannily. They have reasonable cause to liken their situation to both Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Twilight Zone, and their calculated comings and goings start to resemble an antic farce. But there's a telling early moment, of fine economy and human understanding, that also calls to mind Annie Hall: a remembered highlight of great romantic chemistry gets restaged but not recaptured, landing instead as a comically poignant failure. That's the overture, and maybe the cleverest touch. The One I Love is the first feature from director Charlie McDowell, who with writing partner Justin Lader has teased out a concept originated by producer Duplass. The real spoiler, potentially, is that discovery which many couples have to make for themselves: The way we were is hard enough to live up to; harder still is the way we might be.

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Jonathan Kiefer

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SF Weekly movie critic Jonathan Kiefer is on Twitter: @kieferama and of course @sfweeklyfilm.

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