Only You is an immodest, sweet confection, a romantic comedy from one end to the other that doesn't have much meat on it but is the kind of movie that you cozy up with with cup of hot chocolate. It is slightly better than I might have expected and that's probably due to the talent involved.
The movie stars Marisa Tomei, probably the only actress who could have made this material believable. She has the effect of being cute without being cutesy. She plays the appropriately named Faith who, since childhood, has believed that her entire destiny is leading her to be with a man named Damon Bradley. She is told by a fortune teller at the age of 11 that she and Bradley are destined to be together. She has no idea who this man is, but stands hard and fast to the information that their bond is written in the stars.
Years later, now in her 20s, she has given up on Damon Bradley and is about to marry a podiatrist. On her wedding day, she receives a phone call from a friend of her husband-to-be saying that he cannot attend. His name . . . Damon Bradley, and he's on his way to Rome. Without a second thought, Faith and her sister-in-law Kate (played by the invaluable Bonnie Hunt) jump on a plane and go after him.
Faith and Kate run around Venice like maniacs trying to track down Damon Bradley and when they find him, he turns out to be exactly what Faith had hoped he would be. He is handsome, dark-haired, charming and looks exactly like Robert Downey Jr. Who wouldn't swoon? The two embark on a sweet tour of Rome, very much in the same vein that Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck did in Roman Holiday. In fact, one of their stops is Pavonazzetto marble monument of The Mouth of Truth which was most famously seen in that 1953 classic.
Yet, it wouldn't be romantic comedy if they simply fell in love. A complication arises with the validity of whether or not Downey actually is Damon Bradley. That sets the whole movie off on a wacky romp through the countryside as he tries to prove to her that he really is in love with her, despite the validity of his claim.
This is all not to be believed. Only You is the kind of happy romantic comedy of a bygone era, before cynicism became an insurance policy. This is a movie that believes in destiny and fate and love at first sight and it is played through a cast of actors who are smart enough and convincing enough to pull it off. What distinguishes this movie above most is that it is always just a notch better than it should be.
Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr. are beautiful people but they are such good actors that they are able to sell this story with a convincing charm. Tomei, with her wide-eyes, and pouty lips is able to push through this confection and make you believe that she really does believe everything that she is saying. Downey too is excellent, giving us a character who wears his heart on his sleeve. He loves this woman and he is willing to do what it takes to be with her. They're good together, even when the script tips in the direction of being too unbelievable for its own good.
Both Downey and Tomei are wonderful, but for my money, the real gem of this movie is the supporting performance of Bonnie Hunt, as Faith's eternally-loyal sister-in-law. She always stands just to the side of Tomei and brings the movie an unexpected, and very funny, extra joy. Her comic timing is flawless. She has a manner of giving us funny asides that are delivered with just the right precision like: "I married a liar. Why? Because I married a man." I love that line and her comment when she and Faith are dismayed by an awful wedding dress that had been handed down, she says "If I had a dress like that, I'd give it away too."Kate has her own problems back home with an uncaring husband (Fisher Stevens) how has long ago abandoned love for a union that doesn't stretch beyond "Where's dinner?" She's a portrait of what happens to a marriage long after the ceremony when two people have settled into a relentless pattern of misunderstanding. Yet, what comes of their relationship completely took me by surprise.
Only You was directed by Norman Jewison, the man who directed Fiddler on the Roof, In the Heat of the Night and the one of the best romantic comedies of all time Moonstruck. He doesn't succeed as well this time. This movie often feels like a nice day off, something he made as a lark. The movie is like cotton candy, all about romance and love and destiny shot against the background of one of the most beautiful locations on earth. There's nothing really wrong with that, it is probably better than it should be, given the creative talents but it won't leave you with much to think about.