The course of true love is anything but smooth — more like unconvincing, erratic and unresolved — in “The One.” Tracing a smitten gay man’s pursuit of a straight(-laced) crush object, pic makes that quest seem more creepy than charming; some other curious elements likewise play as less than fully intentional, despite the bland overall tenor. Following gay fest travel, Caytha Jentis’ indie romance is debuting theatrically Oct. 7 at Gotham’s Quad Cinema. Disc and VOD release Oct. 18 will reach the usual niche viewers while reminding them that too many gay-interest titles in their rental queue end up being disappointing time-killers.
Improbable aspiring corporate lawyer Tommy (Ian Novick) is introduced bragging to the requisite queeny best friend (producer Michael Billy) about last night’s conquest of a hunky heterosexual who was a “gay virgin.” Despite all signs of this being just another notch in his belt, Tommy vows that this time, it’s really love. However, since his subsequent attempts to woo Daniel (Jon Prescott) rely heavily on lies and manipulation, it’s questionable just how deep Tommy’s feelings run, let alone whether we should be rooting for him.
Discomfited by this one-night stand, and protesting that he’d never do anything to risk the life he’s planned with fiancee Jen (Margaret Anne Florence), Daniel distances himself from Tommy. Tommy responds by joining his target’s gym, befriending Jen, coercing Daniel into an ersatz “college reunion” weekend and otherwise acting like a stalker.
It doesn’t seem to occur to writer-helmer Jentis that in the real world, such tactics would come with a big red flag, leaving thesp Novick straining to be likable as a character whose shallowness and deceit the movie shrugs off as amusing quirks. Meanwhile, Daniel is painted as an earnest yuppie dreamboat with a stereotypical background in country-club golf courses, polo-shirted best friends cracking gay jokes at his bachelor party, etc. Eventually, he confesses to loving Tommy in return, but that seems a function of formula rather than emotional logic.
“The One” later defies both formula and logic by setting up the expected fadeout, then withholding it arbitrarily, necessitating a make-do close that doesn’t work at all. (Adding to the mystery, an opening-credits montage provides glimpses of a happy couple at odds with the subsequent narrative.) In another strange decision, the pic starts out with Tommy as narrator (a device soon dropped), though by the end, he’s barely present and Daniel has become our p.o.v.
Elsewhere, awkward transitions, some far-fetched behavior and occasional scenes that peter out pointlessly suggest elements possibly lost or abandoned between conception and final edit. Unfortunately, the uninspired, frequently flat dialogue sounds as though it survived intact. Result is romantic-dramedy Swiss cheese — mildly palatable, yet riddled with holes. Perfs and packaging are adequate.