Erik White‘s new rom-com The Plus One has great comedic acting but fails to truly engage its audience, only really picking up in its third act.
As a fan of rom-coms, I really wanted to like The Plus One a lot more than I did. Movies about weddings are generally beloved, as the popularity of films like Bridesmaids and The Wedding Planner testify, as something the general audience has probably experienced and can most likely relate to. Despite being so popular within the genre of rom-coms, it can sometimes be a hit or miss. When it comes to the newest wedding-related film, it is more of the latter. The Plus One is one of those films that could have potentially worked on paper, but once I saw it on the screen, I struggled to see its appeal and originality.
The Plus One follows the main couple Lizzie (Ashanti) and Luke (B. J. Britt) as they fly out to Florida with their friends and family for their destination wedding. Everyone wants Lizzie to have the perfect wedding, especially Lizzie’s mother Debbie (Michelle Hurd), her father Alfred (Cedric The Entertainer), Sebastian (Wesley Armstrong), and best friend Ana (Julissa Bermud). It is not that easy, though, as Lizzie’s big day may very well get ruined when Marie (Cassandra Scerbo) shows up. Marie is her best friend’s ex-girlfriend and the one person Lizzie had asked Marshall (Jonathan Bennett), her “male of honour”, not to bring as his plus-one.
I think the biggest issue with The Plus One is its writing. Lizzie is the protagonist, yet we know little of her, as the film does not explore her character at all: all the audience knows about her is that she is getting married. We don’t even know her age, job, or how she met her fiancé. The same goes for Luke, or any of the other characters for that matter, outside of their relationship and their wedding day. This makes it harder for the audience to actually care about not only their relationship but also the dynamics between all the characters involved: the film doesn’t show much of Marshall and Lizzie’s friendship except for the characters telling us they are best friends.
Similarly, there are little conflict or stakes in the plot of the movie. The story and rhythm of The Plus One only pick up in the last act of the film when new elements and doubts are introduced in the relationship between Lizzie and Marshall and between Lizzie and Luke which makes the stakes higher and, thus, the film more interesting. I wish these had been explored sooner in the film as the majority of it falls flat. I also think the element of the destination wedding and the setting itself could have been centred more as it is the inciting incident of the entire film. Instead, the film feels like it could have been set anywhere and not necessarily in Florida.
Despite finding many faults in the film, I have to give credit to The Plus One where credit is due. It is refreshing to see a rom-com with a predominantly Black cast as the main couple and their families are all portrayed by Black actors, especially in a genre that seems to predominantly champion white actors in the main roles. Moreover, the actors are believable, especially Michelle Hurd and Cedric the Entertainer, who stand out as the mother and father of the bride. I also liked the chemistry between the characters, which especially shines in the group scenes where the entire cast is featured, as well as the good comedic timings and delivery of the jokes, despite the presence of overused tropes and overplayed comedy throughout the film.
The Plus One has its funny moments, but it fails to stand out in an array of romantic comedies about weddings, as so many movies of this genre have been coming out recently. It soon becomes underwhelming and struggles to remain funny and relevant as the plot of the film goes on. While the actors’ comedic timing and chemistry with each other do work, that cannot save a film with a writing and plot that did not stand out to me at all. If you are a fan of rom-coms, you might want to look elsewhere for a more entertaining product.
The Plus One will be released in US theaters on September 29, 2023 and on digital and on demand on October 3.