Being the only single person at a wedding, when love is in the air and liquor is flowing like the loneliest river that ever was, can be a frustrating experience when you have to wade through it alone. That’s the understanding that spurs longtime friends Alice and Ben to “gangbang” the myriad of invites, as she calls it, that they receive over the summer to prevent each other from drowning under all the forced sentimentality that comes with being a guest at a friend’s wedding.
A classic “will they, won’t they” ensues between the best buds, and though the film frustratingly signals the overdone cliche that men and women cannot just be friends, Chan and Rhymer’s script and the intense, natural and hilarious chemistry of stars Jack Quaid and Maya Erskine make the ride to this foregone conclusion one of the most enjoyable, satisfying rom-coms released this year.
The dynamic between the two is simple but played expertly by Erskine and Quaid to such heartwarming effect. The former, in a surefire star-making turn for the wonderful Pen15 star, plays the consummate ballbuster in Alice, who lovingly dresses down Ben with equal measures of affection and venom. Their rapport is so refreshingly funny that it revitalizes the tired friends-on-the-eternal-verge-of-romance setup with a torrent of sincere barbs and side-splitting back-and-forths, which sells you entirely on their relationship.
Although Erskine is a showstealer in the ribald spectacle she pulls off with Rhymer and Chan’s dialogue, the centering straightman of Jack offers a perfect balance that transforms the pair’s budding flirtation into something both comic and heartening. Not many films could pull off a sex scene in a graveyard and have it be both humorous and entirely emotionally satisfying.
Wading through these weddings as they do, the film becomes derivative to an extent, as we repeat the same scenes of hotel shenanigans, awkward brides and grooms and the writing-on-the-wall nature of Alice and Ben’s relationship. These drag the film slightly despite the heavy lifting these two do to make it all palatable. And sadly, as a rom-com, we are all but forced to face the inevitable implosion of their relationship due to a fear-of-commitment scare that feels forced in the context of the film.
Yet Erskine and Quaid find the genuine in the well worn plot and bring emotional sincerity to the expected. I could honestly watch these two insult one another at a friend’s wedding for a whole series of films.
The true strength of Plus One is its ability to not give into the facile sentimentality of its genre and to be as weird and filthy as it needs to be to sell you on this relationship. The jokes come rapidfire and nearly every single one lands with incendiary execution, taking no prisoners as Alice and Ben roast one another like only true lovers could.
The script finds that special, elusive place of a gross romantic comedy that could have a “boning in the boneyard” scene be touching, or have Alice exhaustively describing her hairy privates over a Denny’s breakfast as a sweet moment between the two. These films are rare, and to see it done so well is frankly refreshing.
Plus One might not reinvent the wheel or offer much in terms of new perspective, but what it does understand is how to play to its cast’s strengths like nobody’s business. Even with the beats being so ingrained in the scenario that the plot is entirely predictable, the skill in which it is pulled off by Erskine and Quaid makes it all flow as if it was the first time the “will they, won’t they” friendship was ever pulled off in a rom-com.