The teen memories of famously tan Memphis-born actor George Hamilton provide the unlikely inspiration for "My One and Only," an episodic love letter to Hamilton's elegant and apparently indomitable self-styled Southern belle of a mother, here called Anne Deveraux. (Her actual name at the time of her death at 93 in 2004, after four husbands, was Anne Stevens Potter Hamilton Hunt Spalding, nicknamed "Teeny.")
Beautiful, mercurial Ann Devereaux has just left her philandering husband Dan, a society bandleader, and taken to the road with her teenage sons, George and ...
Rating: PG-13 for sexual content and language
Length: 85 minutes
Released: August 21, 2009 NY/LA
Cast: Kevin Bacon, Rene Zellweger, Logan Lerman, Eric McCormack, Chris Noth
Director: Richard Loncraine
Writer: Charlie Peters
As the name change indicates, this pleasant trifle of a movie doesn't let facts interfere with a good fable. Still, according to Hamilton's recent memoir, "Don't Mind If I Do," the movie's premise is less fanciful than it seems: George's mom really did take her two boys on a cross-country husband hunt that failed to turn up a mate but brought young George to Hollywood, validating mother's upbeat motto: "Everything works out for the best -- always."
The movie will most appeal to those who find solace in such uplift, and who are cheered by the pretty 1953 detail -- the road trip takes place in a baby-blue Cadillac Eldorado convertible -- and the nostalgia-colored view of the past painted by the script by Charlie Peters and the direction of Richard Loncraine (better known for the darker visions of "Brimstone & Treacle" and a Nazi-evoking "Richard III" with Ian McKellen). For better and worse, the movie's approach to family and sexual comedy is old-fashioned, in the careful but winky way of the 1950s and early 1960s.
Renée Zellweger's aging Kewpie doll persona is well-suited to the role of Anne, a woman whose succession of admirers include a martinet Army officer (Chris Noth), a goofy paint-store owner (David Koechner) and a soulful young Brando manqué (Nick Stahl); her sons include 15-year-old George (Logan Lerman), a would-be writer who totes a copy of "Catcher in the Rye," and "sensitive" (i.e., gay) Robbie (Mark Rendall), who passes the time in the back seat with embroidery. When George asks if the family, which has no income, should try to conserve money during the trip, mother replies: "What an unpleasant thought."
The truncated movie version of Anne's road trip may disappoint Mid-Southerners. The film takes the trio from New York to Boston to Pittsburgh to St. Louis to Los Angeles, but finds no time to mention Memphis or Blytheville, Ark., where George Hamilton was raised for much of his childhood. (In real life, Anne met George's bandleader father -- played in the movie by Kevin Bacon -- when his orchestra was headlining on the roof of The Peabody.)
George Hamilton is the movie's executive producer, but he remains a discreet presence; outside the final scene in Hollywood, the film references his future fame only ironically, when Anne advises: "Go get yourself some color, George. You're paler than a nun's behind."
"My One and Only" is at Malco's Ridgeway Four.
-- John Beifuss, 529-2394