The Distancer: Thursday, July 30, 2020

DAY 140: Plus One

Happy Thursday, friends! Hope you’re closing out July on a high note, if months are even a thing anymore.

Sprinting towards the weekend like

I obviously have to lead off with the extraordinary parting wisdom of John Lewis, penned in his final days and sent to The New York Times to be released on the occasion of his funeral. It’s a really sobering, inspiring sermon that we should all take to heart. “Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.”

Did you know July is Disability Pride Month? Admittedly, I didn’t before this month, but being late to the game is not an excuse to sit out said game. I read this perspective, “What If Accessibility Was Also Inclusive?” and found it worth contemplating as we build a better world — this passage in particular about what is still left to accomplish 30 years after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA):

What if accommodation is inclusion, and making people welcome? What if accommodation is acknowledging that everyone, regardless of disability status or need, has a right to participate in public life? That needs are not necessarily linked to disabilities, which may vary over time, and accommodating them builds a better culture for everyone?

(If you’re looking for ways to learn more about the disability rights movement, I’d highly recommend checking out early Distancer recommendation Crip Camp on Netflix!)

And, as promised, we’re moving on from donation matching to unspecified new charities at the end of this section! I missed an online fundraiser earlier this evening to benefit the Journalist Furlough Fund, so I don’t have anything *fun* to entice you into supporting. BUT if you enjoy reading the pieces that I feature on here, please support the writers who are currently out of work. We need their voices when the pandemic is over and don’t want people to leave the industry altogether!

Support the Journalist Furlough Fund

Now, what you came for…

DAY 140: Plus One (available on Hulu)

When future generations of film scholars look back at works that encapsulate the millennial ethos, I think they’ll find a lot to look at in Plus One, a film that finds an entertaining premise out of generational trends. Ben (Jack Quaid) and Alice (Maya Erskine) are two longtime platonic friends in their late twenties doing what many of us do with their summer, at least pre-pandemic: attending other people’s weddings. With both lamenting their constant relegation to the singles table, the duo comes up with the bright idea to be each other’s plus ones through a wedding season that feels endless to everyone other than Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti in Palm Springs. Of course, in the movies, we all know that embracing your singleness is often times a quick way to ensure that you shed yourself of it…

We see movies reflecting the reality facing today’s twentysomethings frequently: we’re delaying major life decisions like marriage more than previous generations, we keep things casual, we’re allergic to commitment. In Plus One, writer/director team Jeff Chan and Andrew Rhymer find a way to distill these things effortlessly into the two leads without a hint of didacticism. You can easily watch the whole movie without thinking about these things, by the way — this is just my insufferable social sciences major self playing armchair sociologist. The film works so well because it boils down something larger that we can all sense into narrative form, exaggerating a bit for comic effect but never feeling outlandishly divorced from reality. As the perpetual single friend at the wedding myself, I found both amused by the hijinks that ensued from the premise … and also wondering if maybe they were onto something.

Like any rom-com, a great story can still live or die based on the chemistry of the two leads, and Plus One has that in spades. I don’t think it hurts that the film comes from an impressive pedigree: Jack Quaid is, after all, the son of rom-com Mount Rushmore great Meg Ryan. His brusque, gangly charms recall his father Dennis a bit more, though. He’s well-matched with Maya Erskine, who *I know* I need to watch on Hulu’s Pen15, a firecracker capable of matching his scraggly coarseness with a cutting wit of her own.

So much of the film hangs on buying into the durability and longevity of their friendship, and there’s scarcely a second of their relationship that feels forced. They work as well playing an extended comedic exchange off each other as they do wading through some deep emotional insecurities. Sharing a hotel room for most of the summer, after all, you have little choice but to notice and unpack your partner’s baggage.

I’m honestly surprised it took until 2019 for a movie to do this … although I have a nagging sense that some movie did something similar once. (If you know what it is, do give me a shout!) But even if it did feel a touch familiar, I still enjoyed Plus One in the way that it puts a distinctly millennial spin on the commiserating singles narrative.

Be good to yourselves and to each other,

See past recommendations