One Fine Day
Terrel Seltzer, Ellen Simon
Michelle Pfeiffer, George Clooney, Mae Whitman, Alex D. Linz, Charles Durning, Jon Robin Baitz, Ellen Greene, Joe Grifasi, Pete Hamill, Anna Maria Horsford, Sheila Kelley, Robert Klein, George Martin, Michael Massee, Amanda Peet, Bitty Schram, Holland Taylor, Rachel York, Marianna Mullerleile, Steven Jang
There really is nothing new under the sun and although Hollywood, on a rare occasion, will attempt to subvert the norms of various genres and take a new tack, it isn’t that often, especially with romantic comedies. These kinds of films must adhere more strictly to the normative in order to be popular. One Fine Day is not only the epitome of such, it strangely harkens back more to the films of the romantic films of the 1930s than it does to the romances of the late 1980s.
Romantic comedies are a staple of American cinema, originating in the early days of the medium. In the 1930s, the screwball comedy arrived as a subset of the romantic comedy genre. It quickly took hold, shepherding in a new way to look at the genre. This period petered out after the 1940s, but many attempts were made in the subsequent years to capture its essence. The genre shifted again under the guiding hands of screenwriter Nora Ephron in the 1980s. Since that time, numerous films have tried to replicate the success of films like When Harry Met Sally… and Sleepless in Seattle and were infused with screwball elements epitomized by the films of the likes of Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. One Fine Day has more in common with the Grant & Hepburn films of the 1930s than with the Ephron films in the decade prior, but clearly draws in heavy inspiration from both.
One Fine Day was one of three films starring Michelle Pfeiffer released in 1996, two of which were romantic films featuring women in their later 30s, a staple of the modern genre. Pfeiffer is charming in a film that builds itself on conventional modes of humor. She’s perfectly paired with George Clooney playing divorced parents locked in combat with each other and their individual circumstance as they try to rescue their vulnerable careers from sure destruction.
The gimmick works well, though it finds a lot of inspiration in past efforts, never finding a direction that is uniquely its own. There are some interesting quirks in the formula that resolve themselves in ways different from the typical, such as a scene late in the film (SPOILERS) where Pfeiffer and Clooney are supposed to share an intimate moment together, but a day’s worth of drama has tuckered them both out and they fall asleep before they can take their budding relationship to a new level.
Pfeiffer and Clooney were a compelling match that was unfortunately never replicated as both actors began to shift away from the romantic entanglements that had begun characterizing their 1990s output and moved towards more serious and compelling roles. Nominated for a single Oscar, the closing credits song “For the First Time” is a generic pop ballad that has a catchy hook, which may account for its nomination. Compared to everything that came out of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and the only original track from Evita, it’s a pale imitator that didn’t really deserve its mention.
Settings its single Oscar nomination aside, One Fine Day is an enjoyable film in its evocation of numerous films that came before it while trying to distill those elements into something just slightly different. It was a feat that remains entertaining even if it feels somewhat dated in retrospect.
July 6, 2021