Friday August 23, 1996
You can only be young, unknown and suddenly hot once in a lifetime, and that moment came for Edward Burns when his refreshing "The Brothers McMullen" won the Grand Jury Prize at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival.
Written, directed by and starring Burns, "McMullen" went on to deserved popularity, with a cost-to-profits ratio that Variety called the year's best. So when it came to his second film, Burns not surprisingly ended up reshuffling the same ingredients one more time. But the magic has deserted him with "She's the One," which turns out to be one of those remixes that creates nostalgia for the original.
To a certain extent "She's the One" is "Brothers" on a budget, adding a glossier visual look, a score by Tom Petty and Robert Redford as executive producer to a similarly edgy romantic comedy set in the Greater New York area and involving Irish American brothers confused by love.
And Burns' irresistible rascal screen persona once again proves to be his biggest asset. With a gift for being engaging and a natural tone of gentle sarcasm, he easily animates the role of Mickey Fitzpatrick, described as "the only English-speaking white guy driving a cab in New York."
Despite prodding by his retired fireman father (John Mahoney) who feels his son is "running away from life, not towards it," Mickey's status as a recovering romantic keeps him unambitious. A recent breakup with a serious girlfriend was so traumatic he spent three years driving around the country trying to get over it.
Cabs do have their benefits, however. That's where Mickey meets Hope ("Brothers' " Maxine Bahns), a young woman on her way to the airport for a flight to New Orleans who impulsively asks Mickey if he wants to drive her there instead. He agrees, and, in the first of the movie's numerous forced plot points, within 24 hours they have become husband and wife.
Much as some of this echoes "Brothers," it's not the familiarity that's the problem. If you do something well, it would be a shame not to repeat it. The difficulties come when "She's the One" attempts to put a different twist on its familiar components.
The most obvious and least welcome change is in the part assigned to Mike McGlone, who plays Burns' sibling in both pictures. While his character in "Brothers" was a devout but amusingly confused Catholic, here his Francis Fitzpatrick is a self-absorbed Wall Street killer who is "as impulsive and romantic as a nun."
Married to the attractive Rene (Jennifer Aniston), Francis is not only too busy (or so he says) to have sex with her, he is also short on time to be so much as civil to anyone else. Unrelievedly hostile and unpleasant, suspicious that everyone's motives are as crass as his own, Francis is simply too big a jerk to be of any interest, and a film with him as a key player is invariably going to suffer.
Unfortunately, Francis' nastiness has infected the rest of the film to an unwelcome extent. Though Burns' first film definitely had an edge to it, he has given a much freer rein to hostility here. Many of "She's the One's" characters feed on anger and mistrust, and there is too much sourness around the edges for a film that presents itself as basically a romantic comedy.
An additional difficulty is that "She's the One's" plotting is unduly schematic and arbitrary, starting with its central conceit of a woman named Heather (Cameron Diaz) who has romantic connections to both brothers. When you add in constant unmotivated surprises like Hope's sudden and immovable insistence on moving to Paris, the result is a story that feels as if it were compiled from a checklist, not the heart.
Balancing this, aside from Burns' performance, is solid acting work from both Aniston, a veteran of "Friends," and Diaz, who made her debut in "The Mask." But their ability is not enough to make a difference in this surprisingly brittle film. "She's the One" tries awfully hard not to be as likable as its predecessor, and on that level at least it succeeds.
She's the One, 1996. R, language, including sex-related dialogue. A Good Machine/Marlboro Road Gang production, in association with South Fork Pictures, released by Fox Searchlight Pictures. Director Edward Burns. Producers Ted Hope, James Schmaus, Edward Burns. Executive producers Robert Redford, Michael Nozik. Screenplay Edward Burns. Cinematographer Frank Prinzi. Editor Susan Graef. Costumes Susan Lyall. Music Tom Petty. Production design William Barklay. Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes. Jennifer Aniston as Rene. Maxine Bahns as Hope. Edward Burns as Mikey. Cameron Diaz as Heather. John Mahoney as Mr. Fitzpatrick. Mike McGlone as Francis.