Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass are in couples’ counseling with Ted Danson. We’ve all seen Damages; we know you shouldn’t trust Ted Danson. But Moss and Duplass agree to stay a weekend at a quiet resort Danson recommends, reconnect their first night, and—that’s all I can say. As the trailer intimates, something is afoot. Though I won’t spoil it, the movie asks the couple (and the audience) to accept its rules early on, so that the couple can explore and start testing their own boundaries.
Duplass’s recent affair with another woman hangs over their relationship. Moss can’t bring herself to fully trust him again, and she uses that as an avenue to explore the weekend further, pushing past Duplass’s comfort zone. The actor is an odd choice for a romantic comedy lead, which is why he makes sense when the movie moves into more unusual territory. He gets to show off more versatility, but Moss carries the emotional weight. Her sweetness masks the contradictions she feels, torn between going back to the way it was and wanting more. Moss’s movie career might take off after Mad Men ends: she’s got the pluck for interesting indie roles, though I can’t see her fitting into a mainstream rom-com or gross-out movie.
The One I Love is the type of absurd movie Charlie Kaufmann specializes in, on a more intimate level. Director Charlie McDowell and writer Justin Lader mostly stick to the initial rules of their strange new world; the movie doesn’t spiral into crazier dimensions like Being John Malkovich or Adaptation. do. Though the third act makes attempts to “solve” the mystery, the script never fully explains anything, and you wonder if it mattered that much to the filmmakers. Beneath the premise is a much more conventional narrative of couplehood: how well do we know the person we (say we) love? Consider this a confident first feature from McDowell, with likable actors Moss and Duplass getting to lead a movie. You’ll see the ending coming, of course, but it’s an good ride to get there.