|Just One Time
review by Loey Lockerby, 17 November 2000
In this modern, sexually
liberated world, are we really as open-minded as we like to think?
That’s the question posed by Just
One Time, which throws its "average" characters into a
situation that would inspire soul-searching in even the most jaded.
Anthony (Lane Janger), a New York
City firefighter, gets what any good Penthouse
Forum reader dreams about – an agreement from his fiancée,
Amy (Joelle Carter), that she’ll have sex with another woman in
order to fulfill his greatest fantasy.
The only catch is that Anthony has to sleep with another man
to fulfill her fantasy.
After all, it’s only fair.
Anthony certainly doesn’t think
so, but he goes along with the plan, hoping Amy will change her mind
as the fated night draws near.
He spends some time "dating" a young gay man (Guillermo Diaz)
who lives next door to the couple, while Amy gets to know a lesbian
neighbor (Jennifer Esposito) who is more than a little amused by all
the fuss. The
experience is life-changing for virtually everyone involved, but not
exactly in the ways they expect.
Janger, who directed and co-wrote
the film, could easily have turned it into a mildly diverting
revenge story for all those women whose boyfriends indulge in
stereotyped girl-on-girl daydreams.
He takes it further, however, and the result is a
refreshingly honest look at love and sexual identity.
Janger and his co-writer, Jennifer Vandever (he wrote the "guy"
scenes; she wrote the "girl" scenes), don’t let any of their
characters off the hook, especially the two leads.
Both are too proud to let the other win their little game,
and Amy, in particular, slowly becomes fascinated by the prospect of
doing something that she once found incredibly uncomfortable.
Anthony doesn’t go quite that far, but he is forced to deal
with his own double-standards and latent homophobia, especially when
he discovers that his macho firehouse buddies are more adventurous
and enlightened than he could ever imagine being.
One Time is an expanded version of a short film Janger made in
1998, and he is clearly at ease with the material.
The dialogue is witty and insightful, and he captures the
easygoing, eclectic feel of his East Village setting.
The actors, most of whom also starred in the original short,
fit effortlessly into their roles, although the central romance is
hampered by a lack of onscreen chemistry between Janger and Carter
– we’re constantly told how much they love each other, but it never quite feels
authentic. The ending
is a little hackneyed, but the characters are wiser and more mature
because of their experiences, which is the point of having them go
through all this in the first place.
This isn’t a groundbreaking film,
or even a particularly memorable one.
As romantic comedies go, however, it is unusually brave in
its depiction of just how confusing love and sex can really be, even
to those who think they’ve got it all figured out.
David Lee Russek