In Part One I reviewed One Day and compared it to the phenomenally successful book it’s based upon. This is Part Two, in which I suggest alternatives to Anne Hathaway.
I know, I know. There is no alternative to Anne Hathaway, I hear you cry, members of the “I need Anne Hathaway like oxygen” club. She is undoubtedly a very pretty lady. I certainly did not object when she took her clothes off in Love and Other Drugs and she’ll no doubt look superb in leather in The Dark Knight Rises. She is also talented. She’s won deserved critical acclaim for her performances in Rachel Getting Married and The Devil Wears Prada etc, etc. Whatever her limitations in the accent department, Anne is what you’d call a hot Hollywood property, if you were the type to say such things.
However I think there were stronger candidates for the role of bookish Yorkshire lass Emma in One Day. This is categorically NOT because of her dodgy accent. Ok maybe it is a bit. But there was something disappointing about her performance that went beyond her misguided Emmerdale education.
Director Lone Scherfig has said that whilst One Day: The Book was in love with Emma, One Day: The Film is fascinated by Dexter, and whether he’ll pull through as an alright bloke in the end. For much of the film Jim Sturgess is acting like a dick on telly or being staggeringly ignorant of the emotions of his friends and family. Nevertheless it’s his story, his need for redemption from himself, which drives the movie. In the book we feel, or I felt, more anchored to Emma’s cruelly suffocated potential and deflated ambition. We’re waiting for Dexter to get his act together and save her from her own low confidence.
Perhaps the fact that the film is more centred on Dexter is not just down to changes in emphasis, tone and content Nicholls had to make in the script. Maybe Hathaway’s miscasting also had a role to play in that, in my view harmful, shift. Sturgess excelled as Dexter Mayhew despite the weaknesses of the big screen version. Hathaway was not bad as Emma Morley. But these three (coincidentally British) actresses might’ve been better…
Carey Mulligan worked with One Day’s director Lone Scherfig on her breakthrough picture, An Education. In my opinion she was perhaps the best Emma on offer. She is usually seen as more middle class characters with prim English voices but she would have nailed the studious, quietly creative and brilliant nature of Emma. You can imagine her hunched over a typewriter or book, looking shy, cute and inexplicably alluring. Basically she could play a convincing bookworm with strong principles. She also has the acting chops to deal with Emma’s heartache and traumas later in life. And when she whips off the glasses and comes out of her shell towards the end, when things start going right, audiences would be plausibly wowed at the blossoming beauty. Hathaway looked like a movie star dressing up as geeky and common.
Rebecca Hall starred alongside James McAvoy in Starter for Ten, another David Nicholls book he adapted himself into a movie, with considerably more success. Starter for Ten works well as a whole. It’s predictable but extremely enjoyable stuff. Hall’s character is a constant figure in the background, a determined student activist, who McAvoy’s University Challenge contestant eventually realises he’s meant to be with. She’s adept at being a student and shows an Emma Morley-esque kind nature throughout but the two characters are oceans apart. Could Hall do shy Emma? Her flourishing acting career shows her diversity. My bet is she’d have been as good as Hathaway at least.
Gemma Arterton has been a Bond girl, as well as mastering the regional dialect of the West Country to play frank seductress Tamara Drewe. She’s got double the amount of ticks in the accent column thanks to her role as another Dorset heroine; Tess in the BBC’s adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbevilles. After Tess Arterton will be no stranger to epic romance but like Hathaway she might be too conventionally pretty to pull off library lover Emma, who got a first in English and History from Edinburgh.
Let’s hope Hathaway makes a better Catwoman…