One True Thing
|One True Thing|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Carl Franklin|
|Produced by||Jesse Beaton
Harry J. Ufland
William W. Wilson III
|Written by||Karen Croner|
|Based on||One True Thing
by Anna Quindlen
Tom Everett Scott
|Music by||Cliff Eidelman|
|Edited by||Carole Kravetz|
|Distributed by||Universal Studios|
One True Thing is a 1998 American drama film directed by Carl Franklin. It tells the story of a woman who is forced to put her life on hold in order to care for her mother who is dying of cancer. It was adapted by Karen Croner from the novel by Anna Quindlen. The movie stars Meryl Streep, Renée Zellweger, William Hurt and Tom Everett Scott. Bette Midler sings the lead song, "My One True Friend", over the end credits. The track was first released on Midler's 1998 album Bathhouse Betty. It was shot in Morristown, NJ, Maplewood, NJ, as well as in Princeton University.
Ellen Gulden has a high-pressure job writing for New York magazine. As the movie begins, she is visiting her family home for her father's surprise birthday party. It becomes obvious that she deeply admires her father, George, a once-celebrated novelist and college professor, but has barely restrained disdain for her mother, Kate, and the domestic life she lives. When it is discovered that Kate has cancer, George pressures Ellen to come home and take care of her mother. Ellen is taken aback by this request, knowing it could jeopardize her career and love interest, but finally agrees, caving in to her father's appeals and inducements.
As Ellen helps her mother with domestic chores while her father goes about his usual business without helping much, Ellen begins to reassess her views of her parents. She realizes she always brushed her mother aside and idealized her father, despite his self-centered focus on his career and - she discovers - longtime habit of having flings with his female students.
Ellen attempts to find a place for herself in her parents' life, while struggling to continue writing on a freelance basis and maintain her relationship with her boyfriend in New York. Over time, Ellen grows closer to her mother and learns more about her parents' marriage—including realizing that Kate has known about George's affairs all along. Ellen also learns that her father's philandering days have become lonely nights of drinking at a local bar to numb the pain of never again achieving success with, nor even being able to complete, further novels. George admits to Ellen that the reason he loved Kate was that she was full of light shining through everything, and he couldn't bear the thought of her light slipping away.
As her mother is dying, Ellen tells her she loves her, and Kate says she knew it and always had.
After Kate's death, the autopsy reveals that Kate actually died of a morphine overdose, and a District Attorney questions Ellen about her mother's death. Scenes from this interview are interspersed throughout the movie and point to Ellen being suspected of having assisted her mother's suicide. In the closing scene, by Kate's grave, Ellen has returned from a new job she found in New York with the Village Voice. She is planting daffodils when she sees her father approaching, their first encounter since the funeral. George tells Ellen she was very brave to do what she did, and she looks puzzled until she realizes George thinks she had given her mother the fatal overdose. Ellen replies that she had thought the accomplice was the father. They both realize Kate must have killed herself.
George speaks to Ellen of how much he loved Kate, considering her his muse, his "one true thing." As the movie ends, Ellen is explaining to her father how to plant the daffodil bulbs and he is helping, foreshadowing, it seems, their reconciliation based on mutual long overdue appreciation of Kate.
- Meryl Streep as Kate Gulden
- Renée Zellweger as Ellen Gulden
- William Hurt as George Gulden
- Tom Everett Scott as Brian Gulden
- Lauren Graham as Jules
- Nicky Katt as Jordan Belzer
- James Eckhouse as District Attorney
The movie received mostly favorable reviews from critics with Streep receiving acclaim for bringing warmth and natural features instead of being cold and technical; the review aggregate web site Rotten Tomatoes rates it as 89% fresh. The similar site Metacritic gives it 63 points on a scale of 100, signifying "generally favorable reviews". Todd McCarthy of Variety called it "sensitively written, fluidly directed and expertly acted". Roger Ebert, reviewing the film for the Chicago Sun-Times, commended it for raising above the level of a soap through pure craftsmanship. He awarded the film three stars out of four.
Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle declared, "After 'One True Thing', critics who persist in the fiction that Streep is a cold and technical actress will need to get their heads examined. She is so instinctive and natural - so thoroughly in the moment and operating on flights of inspiration - that she's able to give us a woman who's at once wildly idiosyncratic and utterly believable." Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan noted that Streep's role "is one of the least self-consciously dramatic and surface showy of her career, but Streep adds a level of honesty and reality that makes [her performance] one of her most moving." Among the few negative reviews, Salon.com's Andrew O'Hehir complained that the movie "really has no plot", and found director Carl Franklin unable to properly connect with his cast.
- "One True Thing at IMDb". Retrieved October 3, 2010.
- "One True Thing at Box Office Mojo". Retrieved October 3, 2010.
- "One True Thing (1998)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 6 June 2011.
- "One True Thing reviews at Metacritic.com". Metacritic. Retrieved 6 June 2011.
- McCarthy, Todd (7 September 1998). "One True Thing". Variety. Retrieved 6 June 2011.
- Ebert, Roger (18 September 1998). "One True Thing". The Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved 6 June 2011.
- LaSalle, Mick (18 September 1998). "Home Is a Beautiful `Thing' / Streep shines in drama about ailing mother". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 6 June 2011.
- Turan, Kenneth (18 September 1998). "One True Thing". Los Angeles Times.
- O'Hehir, Andrew (18 September 1998). "One Blue Thing". Salon.com. Retrieved 6 June 2011.
- Waxman, Sharon (21 March 1999). "WashingtonPost.com: Academy Awards 1999". The Washington Post. Retrieved 6 June 2011.
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