1994 Directed by Norman Jewison. Starring Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey, Bonnie Hunt, Joaquim De Almeida, Fisher Stevens, Billy Zane.
REVIEWED By Robert Faires, Fri., Oct. 14, 1994
Note to Norman Jewison: Shots of the night sky and Italian spices do not a fine romance make. It's hard not seeing this comedy d'amore as Jewison's attempt to get Moonstruck again. Diane Drake's script has the same staunch belief in redemptive romance as that earlier hit from Jewison, the same smitten hero persistently pursuing an iron-willed heroine who rebuffs him, the same subplot of a sensible woman in a dry marriage who flirts with having an affair, the same buoyant mood, the same backdrop of Italian culture (and passione), the same shots of celestial objects after dark. But Drake is no John Patrick Shanley and her first produced screenplay lacks the oddball originality, depth of character, and wisdom that made Moonstruck work. Not to fault Drake for not being Shanley; if anyone but Jewison were directing, we might not even make the comparison. And to her credit, Drake's tale of a woman so possessed by the idea that she has a soulmate named Damon Bradley that she puts her wedding on hold and zips to Venice to see him scores some savvy points about what romance means to us. Still, it's clumsy in a film this Hollywood-mushy to have a character carp about how “real life” is never as romantic as the movies. Whose “real life”? The character's onscreen? Not when she's cruising the Italian coast in a red Fiat, I don't think. Whatever the script's pluses and minuses, it never inspires magic from Jewison. He puts about as much passion into the scenes in Italy as he does the scenes in Pittsburgh. His best work is with the actors, who are fun to watch. Tomei is a pixie on the emotional edge, impulsive, bubbly, and as likely to start bawling as giggling. Hunt is her wry counterweight, forever puncturing Tomei's dreamy bubbles with dry one-liners, but also projecting a deep sorrow over her marriage's collapse. The two play off each other with a nice Lucy-and-Ethel yin-and-yanginess. Downey doesn't give us anything new, but he's as engaging as ever, part puppy, part piston, fawning cutely but pulsing with horsepower. The chemistry between him and Tomei looks like the stuff of Hollywood romance but Only You is only a shadow of the great comedies whose memories it invokes.