Fox // 1996 // 96 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // November 8th, 2012
A romantic comedy about two brothers...and the one thing that came between them.
Edward Burns follows up his indie hit The Brothers McMullen with a bigger budget ($3 million!), bigger stars (Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Aniston!) and the backing of Robert Redford.
The Fitzpatrick brothers, Mickey (Ed Burns, Man on a Ledge) and Francis (Mike McGlone, Hardball), are strict Irish Catholic New Yorkers with rigid traditions like weekly fishing trips with their dad (John Mahoney, Flipped) and selfishly neglecting the women in their lives. Mickey is hiding out from the world by driving a cab after having his heart broken by his ex (Cameron Diaz, Bad Teacher), but things start to look up when he picks up a fare (Maxine Bahns, The Lost Tribe) and races to the altar with her. Francis is a successful broker on Wall Street who works too hard and totally ignores his wife (Jennifer Aniston, Wanderlust) because he's having an affair with...who else? Mickey's ex. Boys can be so stupid.
Were it not for 2001's Sidewalks of New York, She's the One would be writer/director Ed Burns' best movie. Though it's basically just a repetition of the same ideas and themes that appear in much of his body of work -- the Irish Catholic experience in New York, the relationships between brothers, the inability of men to get past their own stupid egos to appreciate the wonderful woman in their lives -- She's the One has the benefit of an (almost) uniformly excellent cast, a breezy tone and some genuine truths. It may be a relic of the mid-90s (when Burns was at his most relevant as a director), but it's an agreeable relic.
Make no mistake about it: She's the One is not a Great Film. It is slight. It is formulaic. It leans towards situation comedy more than it does towards cinema at times, but that's where Burns' intentions lie. His first movie, The Brothers McMullen, experienced an immediate backlash when it won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 1995, receiving countless accusations of being "Woody Allen Lite" and just a movie about people sitting around talking. Well, it was the mid '90s, and EVERY studio/indie was about people sitting around and talking. Burns' dialogue has never been as clever or good as he seems to think -- every character sounds very similar -- but the movie had something that's impossible to fake: charm. It as charming, and charming can go a long way.
She's the One loses some of that charm, because Burns is no longer the indie filmmaker struggling to get the movie he made with his friends and family made. He's part of the studio system now, with Robert Redford producing and Tom Petty doing the score and a bigger budget and professional actors in the cast. Perhaps not surprisingly, all of those things work in the movie's favor; sure, it may have to trade in some of that "charm," but it's a welcome sacrifice if it makes the movie better. And She's the One is a better movie -- a more polished, refined, insightful retelling of many of the themes in Brothers McMullen. Jennifer Aniston, who was still a rising star on Friends and just getting her foot in the door of movie acting, is spunky and likable; Amanda Peet, in one of her earlier roles, is very funny in a small part as her sister. John Mahoney, playing the Fitzpatrick patriarch, can do no wrong. Mike McGlone, who Burns basically discovered on Brothers McMullen, is really good at playing a specific kind of prick; though the performance is slightly one note, it's a note that works. Cameron Diaz actually gives one of her best performances ever in the movie, reminding us of a time when she was a beautiful actress capable of doing interesting work in offbeat, unexpected projects (The Last Supper, Head Above Water, Feeling Minnesota, Any Given Sunday, Being John Malkovich). That Cameron Diaz is pretty much gone.
Ah, but there is a weak spot at the center of the movie, and that's the casting of Burns and his then-girlfriend Maxine Bahns as the two leads. I've always kind of liked Burns as an actor -- he's got a movie star quality about him, which explains why he's arguably been more successful as an actor in other people's films than as a director -- but he's saddled with a single expression in here. Bahns is even more problematic, since so much of the story hinges on her character being luminous and special, capable of throwing lives into upheaval. She's very pretty and she's at least sincere, but she's not a professional actor. She could get away with it in Brothers McMullen, but when she's acting opposite John Mahoney and Leslie Mann (in one of her early roles, playing a character who is totally unpleasant for no good reason), Bahns' inexperience really comes through.
The Blu-ray of She's the One (previously available only as a Best Buy exclusive, but now available through all outlets) is part of Fox's "Signature Series," which means basically nothing except that it comes in a slipcover with Ed Burns' signature on it. All of the bonus features are the same ones from the DVD that came out 12 years ago. While still low budget by Hollywood standards, She's the One is probably the best-looking of all Burns' movies, and the 1080p HD transfer does a good job of bringing out what's best about the photography. It has a naturalistic look but still warm and polished -- considerably better than his previous movie, The Brothers McMullen, and more focused than the quick-and-dirty handheld style he would employ in later work. Detail is good, colors are warm and the image has a nice film-like appearance. There's only a stereo audio track offered (no 5.1 remixing has been done), but it's at least lossless and sufficient for the talky film's demands. What really stands out is the score by Tom Petty, which gives the movie personality and texture without ever overpowering the scenes.
Burns always gives good commentary tracks (especially for aspiring filmmakers looking to learn tricks for shooting movies for little money), and his talk over She's the One (while a little patchy) is no exception. He offers tips on things to avoid and how to stretch the money you've got and gives a sense of what it was like to work on a larger scale with real movie stars for the first time. The other bonus features are standard promotional items: a press kit featurette, a trailer and the video for the Tom Petty song "Walls," still maybe the best thing to come out of She's the One.
She's the One is basically a time capsule from a very specific part of the 1990s, when the Sundance generation were all getting the chance to work on a bigger and better stage. Burns used his opportunity to basically remake his first movie with better production values, and was quickly (and somewhat correctly) labeled a one-trick pony for his efforts. I remain a fan of Burns, because he's a guy who keeps making super low-budget movies not because he has to, but because he wants to. I also remain a fan of She's the One, a sweet and sincere movie from a filmmaker who's capable of a lot of sweetness and sincerity.
Recommended for Ed Burns fans.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Music Video