One Fine Day (United States, 1996)
One Fine Day has all the ingredients of an enjoyable romantic comedy: a decent premise, likable leads, and a solid supporting cast. The problem is, instead of throwing the two main characters together and giving them an opportunity to get to know one another, the script insists on keeping them apart as they run around New York City, trying to sort out one crisis after another. By the time they finally get a chance to snuggle together on a couch, too much time has passed for us to be enthralled by the long-delayed magic that materializes.
Melanie Parks (Michelle Pfeiffer, last seen as the ghost in To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday) is a single mom. She's also a control freak, who, in her own words, doesn't have time for friends. The only one who means anything to her is her young son, Sammy (Alex D. Linz), who loves his mother, but misses his father (a musician who has trouble finding time for him). Things start going wrong for Melanie when, on the day she has the biggest presentation of her career, her son arrives late to school and finds the doors locked. His class has already left on a field trip, and Melanie is stuck caring for him for the whole day.
Meanwhile, Jack Taylor (George Clooney, last seen blasting vampires in From Dusk Till Dawn) is in a similar situation. His newly-married ex-wife has left his daughter, Maggie (Mae Whitman), with him for a week while she's on her honeymoon. Jack, a rather disorganized, immature individual, is ill-prepared to care for Maggie for an extended period, and she, like Sammy, misses the field trip. Jack and Melanie meet outside of the school, and immediately begin sniping at each other. But, in the time-honored romantic comedy tradition, their barbs hide their true feelings, which gradually surface over the course of the next ninety minutes.
Michelle Pfeiffer and George Clooney make an appealing couple. They're both charismatic, and, when they're together, they generate sufficient electricity for us to want them to stay that way. Unfortunately, One Fine Day keeps them separated for much of its running time. Both Melanie and Jack are in the midst of work-related emergencies, and the film is determined to pursue their careers with as much vigor as it pursues their personal lives. Frankly, however, Jack's attempts to verify the veracity of a newspaper column he wrote and Melanie's juggling of meetings don't make for compelling viewing. Those elements are filler, and, because we want to see more of Melanie and Jack together, they're unwanted and irritating.
One Fine Day also moves at a breakneck pace, with a digital readout of the time occasionally appearing on screen to remind us that the hours and minutes are rushing by. The contrivance of having a series of deadlines that come and go makes everything seem frantic. Everyone in this film is under constant pressure, so there's no time for a quiet moment of dialogue. It's all rather exhausting, with a payoff that isn't adequate for what we go through to get there.
One saving grace is that the child actors, Mae Whitman and Alex D. Linz, give natural, unaffected performances. They don't call attention to themselves, and, as a bonus, neither is so insufferably cute that you feel the sudden desire to strangle them. Both consistently respond to all of One Fine Day's crazy circumstances the same way any normal kid might, and they mesh well with their older, more experienced co-stars.
One Fine Day has a few enchanting moments, such as a scene where Jack sweeps Melanie off her feet (literally), then splashes around in a large puddle of water. However, as a romantic comedy, this is a spotty affair because it's not really funny or romantic enough. Keeping the leads apart might work for something like Sleepless in Seattle, where the intention is to develop an old-fashioned, long-distance romance, but, in a movie like this -- one that's being pulled in so many directions that it's coming apart at the seams -- it's a mistake. For much of its running length, One Fine Day lacks focus and direction, and that makes it one fine mess.
One Fine Day (United States, 1996)
Cast: Michelle Pfeiffer, George Clooney, Mae Whitman, Alex D. Linz, Charles Durning, Ellen Greene
Screenplay: Terrel Seltzer and Ellen Simon
Cinematography: Oliver Stapleton
Music: James Newton Howard
U.S. Distributor: 20th Century Fox