Only You.... No, you! No, you! No, you!
- In 1994, the days of In The Heat of the Night (1967), Fiddler on the Roof (1971), and Moonstruck (1987) were far, far behind filmmaker Norman Jewison. Only You comes out of the capable hands of Jewison in the year 1994, an incredibly bad romantic comedy full of embarrassing attempts at humor, shallow characters, and a story I could not give a rodent's rear-end about.
The very talented Marisa Tomei stars in the film as a woman who as a child, via an Ouija board and fortune teller, was told that her soulmate would be a man she had yet to meet: one Damon Bradley.
Oh, and what is her name? Faith. Yeah, a bit on the nose, isn't it?
As an adult, Faith has repressed those childish thoughts of finding Damon Bradley and is set to marry the boring podiatrist Dwayne in 10 days. Then, out of the blue, Faith answers a telephone call intended for Dwayne from none other than Damon Bradley (OMG!!!!), who says he is about to get on a plane to Italy. Accompanied by her friend Kate (played by Bonnie Hunt), Faith heads to Italy to find Damon Bradley. However, instead of finding Damon Bradley, Faith finds Peter Wright (get it? Mr. Wright? Har, har har....). However, Peter (played by the great Robert Downey Jr.) fools Faith into believing that he is Damon Bradley and falls in love with her in the process. Faith thinks that she has fallen in love with the man of her dreams but when Peter tells Faith who he really is, she disowns him. Peter does not go down without a fight however; hoping to convince her that she is actually in love with him, Peter decides to escort Faith around Italy in search for the real Damon Bradley.
Even with this interesting premise of how destiny works in our lives, Only You is not funny, feel-good, nor entertaining at all. Diane Drake's script is truly awful, responsible for the unlikable characters, ineffective comedy, and horrible corny lines such as "I was born to kiss you" and "I know he would kill tigers for you." The comedy plays out like a bad sitcom, where you know where all of the jokes are but never laugh.
With its Italian setting and travelogue feel, Only You is arguably scenic. Although, I personally feel that the arguably scenic locations in fact only add to the dull pastel look of the film. The over exposed lima bean green colored farms and the washed-out tan Italian townscapes are not deep, colorful locations with much beauty at all. There are plenty of nude statues, water foundations, and a combination of both though!
"Formulaic" is about the only thing that the film surely is - and forcibly so. Only You stays hooked to its formula whether or not plot points have any depth or believability. So what if they have only known each other for a few hours? Who cares if the entire hours-long relationship is built on nothing but lies? Faith and Peter are in love, damn it!
The romance would fail to entertain even if the story made sense because caring about the characters in Only You is an exercise in absolute futility. The usually reliable Marisa Tomei is good enough in the film, the writing is what ruins the character and makes Faith nearly impossible to care about. The film paints Faith as a person who is supposed to be a fun and likable, maybe a little quirky but ultimately someone we want to see succeed in love. But that is not the impression left upon the audience. Instead, as she searches under every pebble in Rome for Damon Bradley, someone who she has never met, Faith really just comes across as a lunatic. And, on a related note, she is also an incredibly shallow character. Faith has never met Damon Bradley and yet she is willing to risk her relationship with her future hubby by heading to Italy to look for him? Oh, but it's OK, she just wants to "get a look at him, that's all." Uh huh.
Unfortunately, the same kind of inability to care about a character phenomenon happens to Robert Downey Jr.'s character Peter Wright as well. Downey Jr. easily fairs the best out of the entire cast with his eccentric and half-way entertaining turn but, even though he gives the best performance in the film, caring about his character is impossible. What is it about Faith, outside of her girly figure, that makes Peter fall in love with her? She is a shallow numbskull, running all over a foreign country looking for a man she has never met but wants to find because of an Ouija board answer and a $2.00 look into a crystal ball.
Bonnie Hunt's character Kate is the character I hated the most. Married to a not-so-great husband (who also leads his own irritating storyline), Kate is very anti-man saying "I married a liar. Why? Because I married a man." However, she is smitten as a kitten with middle-aged Italian heartthrob Giovanni (Joaquim De Almeida). I guess men are not so bad after all - provided that they are Italian hunks, of course. As with most everything else in the film, the Kate character is written very poorly. On top of it all, the role of the Kate character is to be the funny and cute best friend to the lead character.... The only problem is that Bonnie Hunt is neither funny nor cute.
Only You is an excruciating viewing experience - its 115 minute runtime feeling twice as long, as it takes until the film's halfway point before anything important happens in the story after Faith decides to head to Italy. Even with all the talent invested in the film - Norman Jewison, Marisa Tomei, and especially Robert Downey Jr. are very worthwhile more often than not - Only You is a romantic comedy that lacks believable romance, actually humorous humor, and virtually any quality or entertainment value.
CBC Rating: 3/10