It’s been a long time since two actors have brought as much energy and life to rom-coms as Jack Quaid and Maya Erskine in “Plus One.” They play close friends Ben and Alice, who spend every weekend attending the nuptials for a friend or family member. The endless stream of invites pushes the pair to an act of emotional desperation — they finally agree to be each other’s plus-one to help get through their wedding-day blues.
Quaid (“The Hunger Games”) comes across as the kind of everyman that made Tom Hanks a hit on the rom-com circuit years ago. It is so much easier to connect with a character when they go through the same highs and lows real people face. It might sound easy, but it takes skilled actors like Hanks, Hugh Grant and now Quaid to make an audience forget they are watching an actor speaking the words of others and just enjoy what is unfolding on screen.
There’s an authenticity to the way Quaid performs that makes him likable enough that even when he makes a major mistake, he never falls so far as to lose audience support and sympathy. He’s not written off as a cinematic cad, but as a guy who just did things the wrong way.
It would be a waste if there weren’t someone on the other end to not only feed off Quaid’s work but give him back just as much energy. There is no shortage of power to Erskine, as she plays Alice as a free spirit who uses sharp wit and a quick banter in any situation.
Erskine (“Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later”) makes Alice strong but leaves just enough vulnerability to pull in the sympathy and love of an audience with the force of a F5 tornado. It’s a balanced performance, especially in terms of how well she handles both the comedy and romance.
The film from writers/directors Jeff Chan and Andrew Rhymer could have used a little more satire and wicked wit in terms of the different weddings. Most situations Ben and Alice find themselves fall along some rather normal lines. That’s not a major problem as the weddings don’t end up being a distraction from the film’s heart and soul. But it would have been nice if at least one or two of the ceremonies went to some extremes.
This would have given the movie an additional layer of funny. Instead, there’s a weak line of comedy drawn from the relationship between Ben and his father (Ed Begley Jr.) that misses the mark and ends up more of a joke on the characters rather than from the characters.
That lack of push in writing is in line with the way Chan and Rhymer directed the movie. They take a soft approach to presenting the story, allowing the moments needed to build the relationship between the main characters to emerge naturally.
The directors could take a gentle pace because they had the relatable Quaid and extremely energetic Erskine to move the story along at the proper rate. The wedding of strong actors with a solid script is what makes “Plus One” worthy of saying “I do” to enjoying it.
★★½ “Plus One,” with Jack Quaid, Maya Erskine, Ed Begley Jr., Beck Bennett, Rosalind Chao, Perrey Reeves. Directed by Jeff Chan and Andrew Rhymer. 99 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. Opens June 14 at the Varsity.