Grade: B-
Entire family: No–parents only!
2019, 99 min., Color
Comedy-drama romance
RLJE Films
Not rated (would be R for drinking, drunkenness, drugs, language, and implied sex)
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1 widescreen
Featured audio: DTS-HDMA 5.1
Bonus features: D
Trailer
Amazon link

This one is for parents only—parents who are fans of romantic comedies but also like to show a little love for indie filmmaking. For best results, save Plus One for a night after the kids have been a real handful and you’re both exhausted and secretly thinking back to how carefree everything was before the first bundle of joy arrived, or even before you got married. Watching Plus One will make you appreciate every last difficult minute you spend with your family.

If this film has an underlying social message, it’s that being single sucks, so single parents be warned. More cautionary tale than standard romantic comedy, Plus One is nonetheless totally aware of the romantic comedy conventions: boy has a meet-cute with girl, they fall in love, they lose each other and realize what they lost, and they get together again, just in time for the happy ending. Because of that genre self-awareness, you know pretty much where this film is headed, without even looking much farther than the premise: Ben (Jack Quaid, who looks a bit like Joel McHale with a beard) and his loud, force-of-nature college friend Alice (Maya Erskine, PEN15), find themselves with 10 weddings to attend over the summer—some his, some hers. To get through them, Alice gets Ben to agree to be each other’s “plus one” to avoid sitting at the singles table (a.k.a. the kids table). So yeah, you fully expect them to get together.

Another Ben—Stiller—executive produced this one, but don’t expect a Meet the Parents kind of comedy. Plus One is raunchier, and the way Erskine plays her character you kind of get the feeling that she drew inspiration from the old I Love Lucy shows—if, that is, Lucy lobbed frequent f-bombs, got sloshed on more than Vitavegamin, and always said exactly what she was thinking, no filter. Well, except when it comes to how she really feels about Ben.

For his part, Ben is just as much of an exasperated straight man as Ricky Ricardo, along for the ride of his life and preferring deadpan sarcasm as his own way of dealing with friends and friends-with-benefits who happen to be forces of nature and don’t seem to have a filter. If you haven’t guessed by now, Erkine’s character is a strong personality that will have viewers loving the shifting improv moods and voices she does, or else being put off by them.

Though Plus One is largely a two-actor portrait on canvas, the supporting cast does a nice job of filling in the negative space. One that particularly stands out is Ed Begley Jr. as Chuck, Ben’s equally laid-back but considerably wiser father who’s leaping headfirst into his third try happily ever after. He’s an old-school rom-com presence in a film that updates the genre with today’s “twentysomethings.”

But it’s definitely for parents only, or for families with college-age children.

Language: F-bombs away! Plus a host of other swearwords and sex talk/innuendo; we’re talking a carpet of foul language here, not a throw-rug

Sex: An episode of intoxicated lovemaking with thrusting but everyone fully clothed and nothing shown

Violence: Nothing to speak of

Adult situations: Lots of drinking, some smoking and drug use, and party-till-you-puke binging

Takeaway: Yes, Plus One is so familiar it’s predictable, but the characters add interest and it feels like a happy enough film . . . in a hard-edged kind of way