Adventures in Streaming …

* reviews of things i found on (mostly) netflix *

* now with spoilers *

Plus One

The thumbnail for Plus One – and in fact the cover art for the film – looks sort of like the cover of a 1980’s tweens book (not my usual taste, so not very appealing), but the blurb made it sound a little more interesting, so I gave it a chance.

We follow a group of just-grew-up-a-minute-ago people who are attending a party; we also see something they don’t see: a strange electrical disturbance that creates a bifurcation, so that each of the characters exists again a few moments later.

Unfortunately, only the audience is privy to the electrical disturbance, and only the audience realizes that these duplicates the party-goers are seeing are actually just themselves a few moments later. So they all do what people tend to do in these situations – they panic about what they believe to be evil doppelgangers, and try to kill them. They even succeed a couple of times, clubbing their counterparts to death with gardening tools and ripping their faces off.

As the time bubble (or whatever you would call it) slowly collapses, the few-moments-later them are fewer and fewer moments later, until finally the duplicate group is trying to exist in the same moment with the primary group. This does not go well for anyone.

Especially since the audience knows what caused the bifurcation, it’s surprising how effectively the actors evoke tension and alarm about the possible intent of their other selves. Many of the characters are stereotypical – the drunk jock, the nice guy who finishes last, the popular girl who isn’t particularly pleasant, the loner, etc. – but the actors are solid and tell a good story.

Because the “effects” are just the actors themselves and straightforward blood-and-fisticuffs, everything is extremely believable; the juxtaposition between the primary group and the duplicate group is easy to follow, and I didn’t experience any continuity errors in that regard, which felt impressive since so many people and interactions were involved in the scenes. Because the audience is aware that the second group is really just the first group again, the scenes of panic and the final physical conflict feel pretty gritty – they’re not aliens or pod-people or government robots or anything; they’re just people, being clubbed to death with garden tools.

The metaphor of being afraid of ourselves is a nice touch, in addition to the more obvious metaphor of being afraid of new things we can’t understand. The primary group’s sudden willingness to annihilate other human beings (humans that look exactly like them, to boot) is fairly chilling and yet not surprising – it’s an excellent comment on letting fear make our decisions.

Some of the interactions between the two groups are surprising for other reasons: the loner has an interesting exchange with her other self, and the main male character’s resolution to conflict with his girlfriend is unexpected and thought-provoking – he’s not exactly “the bad guy”, but suddenly we’re left wondering, who have we been watching? Would we do the same in his place? Is what he does even wrong, given the context of the film? What about the people ferociously killing their other selves? Their actions may be understandable, but are they acceptable? Would we behave that way in that situation, and would that be good or bad?

Ultimately Plus One is entertaining and well-done – definitely a worthwhile way to spend a couple of hours.

popcorn icon    10 out of 10

The Thing I Like About …

Plus One: the part where the Allisons kiss.

Plus One is jam-packed full of adult content … so kids won’t have the chance to see what turns out to be a very interesting comment on human nature. Basically, during a crowd-of-drunken-teenagers house party, a meteor crashes to earth, causing an electromagnetic … thing … that creates a stutter in … the space-time continuum, I guess? – events happen, and then fifteen minutes later, they happen again, overlapping the first event so that functionally there are two of everyone.

But the two groups of people don’t understand the nature of the other group of themselves; they become afraid, and alarmed, and then, as so often happens with people who are alarmed and afraid, they become angry and violent. Everyone lashes out at his or her other self, kicking and clawing and screaming in panic-filled rage. Only one person seems unconcerned about the bifurcation – Allison, the smart girl with ordinary hair and no makeup that the other teenagers torment and ignore.

Allison is confident enough not to worry about what the other teenagers think – she really doesn’t want to be anything like them – but she does imagine a world where she is loved and valued and, well, not tormented and ignored. When she sees her fifteen-minutes-ago self, she acts quickly to prevent the other her from being hurt by a mean-girl ambush. As the meteor phenomenon begins pulsing, causing interesting time distortions, Allison catches up with her other self, and the two girls sit on a bench, holding hands and watching the others freak out.

They finally realize, as they stare silently at one another, that they – she – have always been completely happy with … herselves – that she really doesn’t care about the others’ opinions, and that she’s actually fulfilled just being herself. She’s not afraid of seeing herself. She’s not afraid of being herself. She loves her few friends, but her deepest and most meaningful relationship is with herself.

Then, just as the phenomenon resolves itself and subsides, they kiss.
Weird? – maybe. But if you just thought to yourself, “That’s crazy! You can’t love yourself!” … then maybe you just figured out what no one else at the party figured out: if you don’t love yourself, well, that’s the craziest thing of all.

If you met yourself, would you be your own worst enemy? Would you hold hands? Would you be afraid? Allison gives herself a chance … and she’s pretty much the only one who leaves with a smile on her face. When’s the last time you felt that way when you looked in the mirror?