Studio: IFC Midnight
Director: Dennis Iliadis
Writer: Bill Gullo, Dennis Iliadis
Producer: Tom Perell, Dennis Iliadis
Stars: Rhys Wakefield, Logan Miller, Ashley Hinshaw, Natalie Hall, Rohan Kymal, Suzanne McCloskey, Adam David Thompson, Colleen Dengel
A college party spirals into chaos when an atmospheric anomaly creates an echo in time that gives everyone doppelgangers.
In a parallel universe, which is an apt analogy given the subject matter, “Plus One” could have been one of those straight-to-video “American Pie” sequels. The script starts from the basic building blocks required for the type of sex comedy that predictably morphs into heartfelt romance by story’s end.
After a momentary indiscretion ends their two-year romance, average guy David sets out to win back the heart of sweet girl Jill. Playing the role of wisecracking sidekick is David’s sex-crazed college buddy Teddy, whose singular goal for the evening is just to get laid. Shy girl Allison completes their trio. She masks inner insecurity with an outer shell of acerbic wit and false confidence. What is the milieu for Teddy and David to make their wishes come true? Mutual chum Agnar is fulfilling his own dream by using his parents’ lavish pad for hosting an “epic” party he hopes will make his name synonymous with “legendary.”
How many college teen romps have started with a similar premise? Cast Jonah Hill as the curly-haired horndog and Aziz Ansari as the master of ceremonies and it could be an entirely different movie.
The ingenuity of this setup is that it grounds the science fiction of “+1” in an ordinary setting before the extraordinary event takes place. Even with the phenomenon at the story’s center coming with its own set of questions, the movie does not have a complicated set of rules to check off in order to be immersed in understanding its world. This familiar environment grants some plausibility to what takes place next. For one thing, “+1” is immediately off the hook for having a cast slow to notice the unexplainable events taking place. With flaming tennis balls, exotic dancers, and innumerable staples of the most outrageous parties imaginable surrounding everyone, they are already knee-deep in bizarre behavior.
“+1” is partly difficult to describe without revealing too much of the unfolding mystery on hand. The story is not unlike a mash-up of at least a half-dozen other thrillers including “The Langoliers,” “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill,” “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” and even the Michael Keaton comedy “Multiplicity.
A rock from space crashes to Earth and fries nearby power lines with a strange surge of fiery energy. Now, every time the power goes out and comes back on at Agnar’s party, an echo of the night’s previous events repeat themselves, complete with flesh and blood doppelgangers for everyone involved. The original timeline still exists, too. With each successive power fluctuation, the two realities come closer together.
Thanks to a massive estate that keeps the festivities moving from one end to the other, most of the partygoers are oblivious to the doubles occupying the space where they were earlier. David, Teddy, Allison, and a few others clue in first to the unbelievable events. Teddy has seen enough movies to know that meeting your double is probably a bad thing, even if he is not entirely sure why. He knows he has to stop the timelines from meeting. David has other ideas. He decides not to look a gift horse in the mouth and uses the opportunity to pull a “Groundhog Day” and cheat his way through a second chance apology to Jill.
Meteorite and power lines are all the explanation there is for the event taking place. There are going to be those viewers who leave the film in frustration as they struggle for answers the film has no interest in giving. “+1” is not about explaining any pseudo-science behind its plot device. This is a story about how real people would react if such an unthinkable situation ever took place.
With the way that the core characters immediately look for solutions to change or take advantage of their predicament instead of searching for the why behind it, “+1” barrels straight ahead with a snappy pace focused on story. The key players adapt quickly. They may not know what is happening, but they immediately accept that it is somehow dangerous.
Certain conclusions are settled on with record speed, but the script can be forgiven for a few shortcuts because it aims to get to the point in a runtime just over 90 minutes. In fact, there might be more fat to trim. As much ground as is covered so rapidly, there are moments where the camera lingers long on confused expressions as characters slowly walk about and gather visual information.
“+1” presents a fearless approach to storytelling. Some will be off put by the take it or leave it attitude of the premise. Many corners are turned that fail to add up in the big picture, but the overall effect is one of a movie that has a unique take on venerable sci-fi ideas about reliving the past and meeting one’s clone.
Review Score: 80