How many of you out there don’t know who George Hamilton is? Betcha most of you are more than familiar with him. Some generations may remember Hamilton as an okay actor from Hollywood’s golden years in the 50's. Others, for his fun and devil-may-care persona he exhibited during the 70's celebrity game show blitzkrieg. Most recently, you may know him for his very entertaining stint on “Dancing With The Stars”, an over-the-top hysterically funny performance in “L.A. Riot Spectacular” or his self-deprecating comedic ads that always manage to incorporate his perennially perfect tan into the product pitch. Or is it his penchant for always having a gorgeous woman on his arm, from Liz Taylor to Alana Stewart? For myself, Hamilton represents one of the last bastions of Hollywood in its heyday and an era with manners, elegance, a little mystery, style and above all, class. But what is it that makes Hamilton, Hamilton? So suave, so debonair, so dynamic, so diverse and above all, so tenacious so as to adapt, survive and even flourish in the ever changing mecca of Hollywood and the entertainment industry. The answer my friends may be found this week with the opening of MY ONE AND ONLY.
Executive produced by Hamilton, MY ONE AND ONLY is the “fictionalized” true story of the teen-aged George Hamilton and his egomaniacal, self-absorbed, husband-hunting and extremely eccentric mother, and his charmingly delightful effeminate half-brother, as they do a Lucy and Ethel style road trip across the country, eventually ending up in Hollywood. Besides the wonderfully done travelogue of America, what gives MY ONE AND ONLY it’s likeability is the strength of Charlie Peters’ script, the superb performances of some break-out young actors like Logan Lerman and Mark Rendall, and the warmth and irritation of mom and the bond that results between mother and sons - particularly with George.
New York City was a happening place in the mid 50's. Nightlife was glamorous and booming, particularly in the lives of Dan and Ann Devereaux and their sons, George and Robbie, the latter the product of Ann’s prior marriage. Living a life of glitz and glamour, thanks to Dan’s success as a bandleader, the family wants for nothing; well, except for Dan who seems to want every woman he sees. Finally catching her husband in bed with another woman, Ann packs up her bags and her boys and heads out into the world looking for a new life and a new husband.
Caught up in the memories of her youth, Ann believes that she can still rely on the flamboyance and exuberance of her Southern charms of days gone by to win herself a husband of means. (She obviously mistook 1963 for Scarlett O’Hara’s 1863) But, times have changed, as have the men, and as she looks at one loser after another, it seems the only real men on which Ann can rely are George and Robbie.
As Ann runs afoul with one disappointing relationship after another, the trio head from town to town on a summer road trip, looking for that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. What they find along the way is adventure laced with heartfelt poignancy and laughter at life’s little foibles. Given his mother’s propensity for juvenile behavior, lack of foresight and often, common sense, George steps up to the plate with a wisdom and maturity beyond his years, coming into his own and taking charge of his life while trying to help his mother grow up, all the while daring to hope for reconciliation between his parents or a life with his father. But the more miles Ann puts between our traveling trio and Dan, the clearer George begins to see the world.
From a character sense, it was like stepping into a mirror with Renee Zellweger who is simply radiant with both and inner and outer glow as Ann. She so reminded me of what my mother was like back in the 50's with her Southern sensibilities and her sense of Southern refinement and then hitting the "big city" life of Philadelphia. The detail with which Ann is created, right down to her white gloves and pearls speaks volumes about the character. I got a real chuckle seeing those little touches as they are so true to life. Zellweger’s interpretation of Ann is perfect. Expanding on the sensibility of the look of Ann, Zellweger is ideal with the voicing and accents and capitalizes on that talent. As she did with “Bridget Jones”, as Ann, she masters not only the talk, but the walk and movement of the character and makes it her own. She brings out the real quirkiness of Ann's thinking which is a perfect dichotomy to her outward appearance and the manner in which she treats her sons, especially George. Impressive though (and I hope is true in life) is the emotional interpersonal journey of Ann which Zellweger showcases nicely lending to a very sweet perspective.
Kevin Bacon easily handles the slick Dan Devereaux bringing a natural ease to the performance and character that oozes smarmy charm yet in several pivotal scenes adds layers of tapestried emotion and inner conflict that provides a greater depth and understanding to the character. Given Kevin Bacon's talents, I would have liked to see more of him on screen interacting with Zellweger and Lerman, but in his limited screen time, he is magnetic and frenetic. One of the sweetest scenes of the entire film is a reunion of Ann and Dan in Hollywood which, thanks to Bacon and Zellweger is a very sweet and humbling scene.
But talk about talent, look no farther than Logan Lerman and Mark Rendall. As George and Robbie they are wonderful, particularly Rendall, who is so much fun with Robbie’ more effeminate side and his obsession for the glamour of Hollywood. Given the George Hamilton we know today, I can only imagine that he was exactly as Lerman portrays him in the film. Lerman has a suave propriety and elegance that makes it easy to see him as Hamilton. And Lerman knows how to command a scene. Both boys are engaging and entertaining and have a truly brotherly camaraderie and sibling rivalry going on serving as a touchstone of truth and reality. Key to their performances and relationship is that as George and Robbie, the two may pick on each other as brothers do, yet you see the love and caring between them. Beautifully executed.
Not to be missed are some interesting performances from Chris Noth, Nick Stahl and Eric McCormack as some of Ann’s suitors. Of the three though, Stahl has an emotional texturization that tugs at your heart.
Written by Charlie Peters, the story was inspired by stories that George Hamilton told Merv Griffin about his life and his journey to Hollywood. Strong dialogue and a comedic and dramatic flair that is so distinctive one can almost hear Hamilton regaling the tale himself as the film progresses, only adds to the enjoyment of the story. The story explains much about the George Hamilton that we see today, showcasing the influence of his mother with his breeding and mannerisms and "propriety". As I wrote earlier, Hamilton is one the last remaining few semblances of elegance, refinement and breeding in Hollywood today and with MY ONE AND ONLY we see why.
Richard Loncraine easily helms the project giving us a lovely little period piece travelogue that is pretty to look out, has extremely likeable characters and is more than enjoyable. The biggest highlights of this film though are the elegant cinematography by Marco Pontecorvo, Brian Morris' production design and Doug Hall's costuming. Pontecorvo was a wise choice as cinematographer. His European sensibilities of lighting, period and opulence are perfect in MY ONE AND ONLY. Likewise, Morris' production design - perfect! The Devereaux NY apartment is exquisite and period perfect, as are his other sets as we "cross country" into various economic dynamics and demographics. I can’t sing enough praises about Doug Hall who captures every fashion element of the period for every demographic. Girls, if you love true 50's Hollywood and New York nightlife glamour, then you will love women's evening clothing and even Zellweger's daywear. Hall always does an excellent job with period pieces (just look at “A Walk to Remember”). But the jewelry!!! Stunning, Stunning, Stunning and so defining of a 1950's Southern woman now in the "big city" and with money.
Capping off the entire feeling and sensibility is the work of composer Dillon O’Brian and music supervisor Steve Lindsay who fill the film with period appropriate music with a popular and Gershwinesque feel. Character driven, the music goes far in defining each character and particularly Ann, whose emotional roller coaster is told through jazz and blues while Dan is more bears more of a wistful, lustful longing. Hauntingly appropriate.
I have had the pleasure of meeting George Hamilton on many occasions and in fact, privy to some of his lifestyle, including a yacht and a mink bedspread. He has always been nothing short of entertaining, enjoyable, elegant and hospitable, so it seems only natural that a chapter of his life and this film capture those very qualities. A little gem of enjoyment at the end of the summer, MY ONE AND ONLY moves along in cruise control, at a steady even pace. Nothing out of the ordinary or new that we haven’t really seen before, but enjoyable and sweet - just like a drive on a breezy summer day with a few potholes along the way.
Ann Devereaux - Renee Zellweger
Dan Devereaux - Kevin Bacon
George - Logan Lerman
Robbie - Mark Rendall
Directed by Richard Loncraine. Written by Charlie Peters.