Sleepless Over What Might-Have-Beens

One Fine Day is a dangerous movie. It’s one of the worst threats to my productivity of any movie ever made. If I’m unlucky enough to come across it while channel surfing, I’m stuck. I won’t move until it’s over. The movie sucks me in pretty much literally, until I find myself living inside it. Another day, another casualty of my Pfeiffer pfixation.I have let this whole “90’s screwball” kick run on far longer than I originally intended, but watching One Fine Day there’s a nagging sense that an opportunity was lost in 1997, when the romantic comedy was still a hot topic (and Michelle, George Clooney and Meg Ryan, were still hot stars). But there are some movies that aren’t just lost… they never were.The spectre of Meg Ryan haunts this film; this was her métier, and it’s almost an obloquy she isn’t part of One Fine Day. The film is so close to being copied from her playbook, she might as well have been a part of it. One Fine Day is like a concise version of You’ve Got Mail by way of Capra and Howard Hawks.But for all that, it isn’t exactly clear how Maggie would have fitted into this thing. Clooney and Pfeiffer were gold-medallists in the Gorgeous Olympics. In any rational universe they would pair off in the first scene and Ryan wouldn’t even enter the equation. Now all of a sudden the world starts to appear upside down.Meg would have been the default romantic lead for a picture like this. Unlike Michelle, whose allure was bound up in icy hauteur, her emotional wooziness left her vulnerable, more than almost any other actress of her generation. Each would have been the perfect foil for Clooney, but in different inflections.Ryan had the rare ability to be enormously charming and seductive no matter what the role. It didn’t matter how it was written, Meg Ryan couldn’t play a villain: The more overwrought she became, the brighter she shone.Let’s just say that a truly gifted writer/director had set out to do the very things that Lubitsch or Preston Sturges would have done. Cast these two platinum blondes in a sophisticated, dialogue-driven comedy and suddenly you’ve got a very different picture. Was that even possible? And if it was, would the result live for the ages as one of America’s best movies?

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