Plus One Is An Underrated Rom-Com to Watch This Valentine’s Day

In search of a good rom-com? Well, look no further.

Plus One

A genuinely great rom-com can arrive with a bang and cement itself in cinematic history.

Think of When Harry Met Sally and that diner scene back in 1989. Or the joyous jewellery box moment in Pretty Woman a year later. The climactic monologue in 10 Things I Hate About You at the end of the ‘90s springs to mind, too.

Each of these became iconic moments and iconic films, winning the hearts of audiences across the globe and standing the test of time in the decades since. Say “I’ll have what she’s having” and pretty much anyone will get the reference. Ask someone to name an iconic movie look and Roberts’ red dress in Pretty Woman will undoubtedly come up. These characters, their stars and their films are beloved by so many.

Yet there was no such love for Plus One, a fresh, fun and feelgood rom-com that arrived to little fanfare back in 2019.

Debuting at the Tribeca Film Festival before receiving a select theatrical run, the movie picked up less than $45,000 at the global box office, before quietly shifting to Hulu without much fuss.

Critics praised the “well-matched leads and a story that embraces and transcends genre clichés”, but those critics were seemingly more or less the only people who ended up seeing it on its initial run – and even in the five years since, after it gained a wider presence on streaming platforms like Netflix, very few have checked it out. A case in point – it has 14,000 ratings on IMDb, while Palm Springs – a comparable rom-com released a year later – has 180,000.

This is a real shame because, in an era where truly original rom-coms are few and far between, this small-budget tale of two unlikely soulmates offers a vivid reminder of what a fresh take on the genre can do.

This is largely due to, as touched upon by the critics mentioned above, the capacity of co-stars Maya Erskine and Jack Quaid to create a genuinely believable connection from minute one. Any rom-com lives or dies by its central pairing’s ability to establish a tangible chemistry, but that’s especially the case when a film asks its audience to believe its two lead characters are longtime friends.

Yet Erskine and Quaid pull this off with aplomb, the ease of their banter and intoxicating back-and-forths making it feel like you are sat watching a couple of best mates fall slowly in love. It has to be said that it is Erskine’s commitment to selling the pair’s dynamic that makes the film so memorable. She’s cracking jokes that feel natural and improvisational, doing a lot of the heavy lifting in particular.

Sure, Quaid’s charming awkwardness and more straight-laced approach is enjoyable, and in his portrayal of Ben it’s easy to spot the signs of the star he has since gone on to become. But it is Erskine’s wildcard character that carries the comedy, her outlandish performance consistently challenging Ben’s seriousness, dragging him out of his shell to joyous ends. She’s a blast to spend time with, even when the characters around her might not agree.

At the same time, there are layers beneath the seemingly confident exterior, and Erskine is equally adept at bringing Alice’s more vulnerable side to the fore. It’s clear early on that Alice uses her brashness to hide her pain, deliberately keeping those around her at arm’s length, and in the quieter moments, Erskine’s dramatic chops are on full display.

For a rom-com to properly sing, it cannot rely solely on the ‘com’ side of things; there has to be a human story underneath it all, with real people at its centre that the audience can actually care about and root for. Alice is exactly that, channelling the insecurities and inner turmoil we can all relate to when watching at home.

This emphasis on flaws and imperfections is a theme throughout the film, with writer-directors Jeff Chan and Andrew Rhymer constructing the sort of honest, warts-and-all exploration of love that typical rom-coms can sometimes avoid. You see, as much as we adore grand gestures, meet cutes and flawless characters that swoop in and promise to solve all of our problems, true love isn’t always like that.

No, real companionship is built on challenging one another, embracing blemishes and blunders, and finding the joy in quiet conversations in hotel rooms or laughing away at a joke only the two of you would ever understand. It’s in the smaller moments, it’s in finding perfection within imperfections, that genuine romance blossoms, and Plus One knows it.

In this way, the film really does transcend genre tropes, throwing away clichéd ideals around the ‘perfect relationship’ and choosing instead to focus on what real love looks like – and it feels like a breath of fresh air as a result.

It may not have brought home the big bucks at the box office, but with the film now widely available on streamers (in the UK alone, you can find it on Netflix and ITVX), there’s no excuse for overlooking this hidden gem any more. Next time you’re hankering for a rom-com, stick on Plus One.

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