“One Fine Day” is a pretty ideal baby-boomer romantic comedy. Made with the right breezy insouciance and performed with consummate flair and sexy star allure by Michelle Pfeiffer and George Clooney, this lively confection will hold plenty of appeal for mainstream auds over 30, even as some younger hipsters will no doubt find the crazed, child-encumbered leads insufferable. Strong B.O. with good legs lies ahead.
Script by Terrel Seltzer and Ellen Simon spins on one of the central domestic dilemmas of the era: how to balance kids and a career. Add to the mix the question of how single parents might actually manage to find time for romance in the press of what are already overloaded lives, and you have the prescription for an easily engaging storyline once you forgive the contrivances that bring the characters together and prevent them from having available day care.
In tried-and-true romantic comedy tradition, Melanie Parker (Pfeiffer) and Jack Taylor (Clooney) meet cute and are antagonistic from the outset. Divorced Jack, a hard-hitting Daily News columnist, is abruptly put in charge of his 5-year-old daughter, Maggie (Mae Whitman), when his ex-wife decides to take a honeymoon with her new hubby. He is responsible for both Maggie and same-aged Sammy, divorced architect Melanie’s son, missing a daylong school trip on a ferry.
Thus are the two parents stuck with their kids for the day, and they can ill afford the burden. Jack, who first has to take his daughter along to his shrink session, is in the middle of an erupting City Hall controversy and must dig up some proof from dubious sources for his damaging charges against the mayor. For her part, Melanie has a major presentation to make for a big-bucks urban development, and she can expect no understanding from her hypochondriacal boss, who is so phobic of kids that Melanie hasn’t even been able to admit to him that she has one.
And so it goes throughout the day, with accident-prone Sammy causing a succession of little disasters; his defiant, I-can-do-it-alone mother finally agreeing to let the despised, egotistical Jack help her out a bit; the two adults mixing up their identical cellular phones and surviving calamities at a bully-dominated emergency child care center; Jack dealing with underworld types, politicos and an official’s scorned wife; Melanie trying to sell a multimillion-dollar construction project and then losing Jack’s daughter on her watch, and finally dashing from drinks at “21” to try to make a kiddie soccer game in Central Park at 6 p.m.
The pressures of the adults’ parallel responsibilities provide more than sufficient incident and forward momentum, and the scenarists have underlaid the action with just enough sense of growing attraction between the leads to prevent the catalogue of misadventures and scheduling conflicts from being the main subject of the picture. Understandably, Jack is attracted to Melanie right away, but Pfeiffer, in an excellent, well-judged performance, plays her as enough of hard-headed, disagreeable workaholic that one initially believes she might remain impervious to anything Jack has to offer.
Despite a much-commented-upon Peter Pan complex and a degree of unfamiliarity with his daughter’s needs, Jack is a winner, and perhaps the film needn’t have underscored this point so much by having practically every woman in the cast leer at and make passes at him. Clooney, in his second post-“E.R.” stardom feature, makes it all look easy, effortlessly conveying both the capable, tenacious, professional side of his character and the romantic softy inside. He’s the rare major actor who, like Clark Gable, holds equal appeal for men and women, and here he shows a light touch that offers further evidence of considerable range and ability to dominate on the bigscreen.
As the characters spend the entire day, and running time, trying to keep all the balls they have in the air from falling at their feet, the emotional undercurrents remain uninsistent until the very end, when they finally, if gently, hook in. By fade-out, pic conveys a sweet quality that mostly overrides the time-squeezed contrivances of the plotting.
Director Michael Hoffman keeps the material’s elements in proper perspective and, despite a vaguely staged quality at certain moments, integrates the foreground action very well with the general bustle of Manhattan, making for a vibrant picture of contempo urban life. Contributions of key production hands, notably production designer David Gropman, lenser Oliver Stapleton, costume designer Susie DeSanto and editor Garth Craven, are uniformly sharp and sparkling.
The kids are fine and not chosen or directed to be particularly scene-stealing or overly lovable, and pic is loaded with colorful, mostly brief supporting turns. Notable are Ellen Greene as the brassy, scorned wife, Joe Grifasi as a reluctant informant, Holland Taylor as Melanie’s luminous mother and, rather more prominently, Charles Durning as Jack’s editor.