Review: ‘The Right One,’ starring Nick Thune, Cleopatra Coleman and Iliza Shlesinger

February 13, 2021

by Carla Hay

Nick Thune and Cleopatra Coleman in “The Right One” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

“The Right One”

Directed by Ken Mok

Culture Representation: Taking place in Seattle, the romantic comedy “The Right One” features a predominantly white cast (with some black people and Asians) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A romance novelist is attracted to an elusive man who has multiple personality disorder.

Culture Audience: “The Right One” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching flimsy romance stories with unappealing characters and offensive ways of depicting mental illness.

Iliza Shlesinger and Cleopatra Coleman in “The Right One” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

Even without the ridiculous and offensive way that mental illness is handled in “The Right One,” the movie fails to meet the basic requirement of a romantic comedy: believable chemistry between the would-be couple. Written and directed by Ken Mok (who’s best known as an executive producer of “America’s Top Model”), “The Right One” is a tedious and not-very-funny slog of a story that badly mishandles this concept: A romance novelist falls for a guy who has multiple personality disorder. And she thinks he doesn’t need psychiatric help or any therapy, but that her love is enough to “cure” him. Try not to gag at this disgustingly irresponsible attitude toward mental illness.

In “The Right One,” the clueless romance novelist who ends up thinking that she’s qualified to cure someone’s multiple personality disorder is Sara (played by Cleopatra Coleman), a 31-year-old with the emotional maturity of a 17-year-old. The movie takes place in Seattle, but was actually filmed in British Columbia. For more than a year, Sara hasn’t been dating anyone and has been celibate, ever since her ex-boyfriend Simon (played by Nykeem Provo) dumped her because they didn’t agree on parenting issues and he wanted to be with another woman. Sara wants to eventually become a parent, while Simon told her he didn’t feel the same way.

When viewers first see Sara, she’s reluctantly at a trendy art gallery party with her obnoxious agent/best friend Kelly (played by Iliza Shlesinger), who insists that Sara has to start dating again. Kelly is loud, bossy and abrasive. And Kelly seems to care more about how much money Sara can make for Kelly than she cares about Sara as a human being. As seen later in the movie, Kelly is the type of horrible boss who yells insults at subordinates, throws things in the office, and makes her male administrative assistant paint her toenails.

Meanwhile, Sara is still pining over Simon and bitter about the breakup, but she doesn’t really want to admit it. At the party, Sara notices a man who’s about 10 years older than she is, and he looks like an uptight and pretentious art critic giving a lecture about some of the art on display. By the way that Sara looks at him, it’s easy to see that she’s immediately attracted to him.

Just minutes after that, Sara sees the same guy, dressed in different clothes and wearing a different hairstyle, in another room. This time, he’s acting like a hipster bohemian type, who jumps around with enthusiasm while talking to another group of people about the art on the wall. By the way, it’s a very quick-change transformation into these two different personas. Who does he think he is? Superman?

Is he an actor? Does he have an identical twin? Is he doing some kind of performance art? No. His name is Godfrey (played by Nick Thune), whose psychological problems are so serious that he’s been living his life as several different people. Sara doesn’t find out what Godfrey’s real name is until much later in the story. Until then, she meets his many personalities. And this movie wants people to believe that Godfrey’s mental illness will stop just because Sara is now in his life and she wants to “save” him. Retch.

The next time Sara sees Godfrey, he’s performing as a country singer busker on the street. He calls himself Cowboy Cody (and he says it a straight face) and speaks to her with a Southern twang when she inevitably approaches him and says, “I know you from somewhere.” When Sara figures out that he’s the same chameleon whom she saw at the art gallery party, he insists that she’s wrong and that his name is Cowboy Cody.

This back-and-forth goes on for a few minutes, but it seems like longer. Sara can’t get him to admit that he’s the same person she saw at the party. Sara makes it clear that she wants to see him again. But Cowboy Cody is about to hop on a bus, so he hands her a flyer showing when and where his next performance is going to be. And you know that Sara will be there.

After having this street encounter with Cowboy Cody, Sara excitedly tells Kelly that she no longer has writer’s block and has decided on the plot for her next romance novel “Chastity,” which Sara has to finish on a tight deadline (three months) because she’s been procrastinating. Sara tells Kelly that the novel’s female protagonist falls for a mysterious guy who has several different personalities, and this heroine will try to figure out which of his personalities is the real one. And guess how Sara going to research this book?

Kelly is very self-absorbed, but even Kelly knows that it’s a bad idea for Sara to get involved with someone who has mental health problems that Sara isn’t equipped to handle. Kelly advises Sara not to fall in love with this mystery man but only get to know him as research if it will help Sara finish the book on time. But Sara and this movie will not be stopped in their misguided quest to make it seem like all someone like Godfrey needs is the love of a good woman to cure him of his mental illness. It’s a concept that’s shoved in viewers’ faces in the most obnoxious ways.

There’s a minor subplot of Kelly setting up Sara on a blind date with a nice guy named Ben (played by Anthony Shim), who’s an artist. Sara and Ben’s first date together is somewhat awkward because Sara tells weird jokes that don’t land well at all. Still, Ben asks Sara out on a second date, and tells her they can go wherever she’d like. She suggests that they go to the nightclub where Cowboy Cody says he’ll be performing next.

But the person performing at this nightclub isn’t Cowboy Cody. It’s Godfrey in drag, wearing a blonde wig and a long dress. This time, he’s a spoken-word artist named Allie Cornbush, who does an act that’s part comedy, part avant-garde performance. Sara loves it and cheers enthusiastically, while Ben is not impressed and thinks the whole act is bizarre.

Sara is so infatuated with this chameleon, that after the performance, she follows him outside of the club, thereby ditching Ben without even a goodbye. How rude. At this point, Sara is acting like a pathetic groupie, because she begs Godfrey (who’s now dressed as a man, in jeans and a hoodie) to let her tag along with him wherever he’s going. Slow down. You just met him.

She then follows him into a dark alley, where he surprises her with two oversized, glowing helmets shaped liked cat heads—one for him, and one for her. They go to a nightclub, where yet another persona for Godfrey emerges. This time, he’s a DJ who calls himself Katamine (rhyming with ketamine), who’s an obvious ripoff of real-life DJs who wear oversized mask helmets as part of their act, such as Deadmau5 and Marshmello. DJ Katamine is very popular with the crowd, and Sara ends up on stage with him too. Yes, it’s that kind of movie.

But that’s not all. Godfrey has other personalities and other jobs, which makes you wonder why Sara thinks he would have time to date her when he has all these different lives that he’s leading. Godfrey also teaches a reading class for kindergarten-age students at what looks like a library. They call him Mr. G there.

And he also works as a high-ranking salesperson for an unnamed corporate company, where he’s nicknamed G-Money. He does most of his sales over the phone, where he has more personas that he fabricates with clients in order to close a deal. His office persona as G-Money is as an eccentric who shows up for work with spiked hair like a punk rocker, dressed like a surfer, and wearing no shoes. It’s the opening scene in the movie.

Godfrey is allowed to dress this way in a corporate environment (while his office colleagues have to wear suits) because he outperforms all the other sales staffers by 364%. That’s according to what a fellow employee tells the visiting head honcho Bob Glasser (played by David Koechner), who has arrived to evaluate the sales department and boost their productivity. In an early scene in the movie, Godfrey (aka G-Money) is able to charm Bob because they’re both fans of the jam-rock band Blues Traveler.

Meanwhile, Sara tries to keep seeing Godfrey as much as she can, even though she still doesn’t know what his real name is or anything substantial about him. She keeps a journal of all her encounters with him, as if she’s a love detective. And her attempts to get close to him hit a snag when a thuggish-looking guy in his 20s tells Sara that she needs to stay away from Godfrey.

It turns out that this guy’s name is Shad (played by M.J. Kokolis), and he’s Godfrey’s foster brother. Godfrey’s reason for his multiple personality disorder is eventually revealed in the movie. Needless to say, Sara ignores Shad’s demands to stop seeing Godfrey. She comments to Shad about Godfrey: “I know that I don’t know him, but I feel like inside, there’s this special, sweet person.”

Later in the movie, Godfrey has somewhat of a meltdown at one of his jobs, and he’s in danger of being fired. However, Shad and Sara go to talk to Godfrey’s boss, who thinks that Godfrey should get a psychiatric evaluation and professional help for his obvious mental-health problems. But then, in the worst scene in the movie, Sara has the idiotic nerve to lecture this boss and say: “Godfrey isn’t mentally unstable … He doesn’t need a psych evaluation. He needs support and time to process what he’s going through.”

Before Godfrey’s freak-out on the job, he and Sara had gone on a ballroom dancing date. During the date, his persona was Matteo, who claimed to be from Argentina but actually spoke in a weird mashup of a German/Spanish accent. As far as Sara and this awful movie is concerned, getting professional help for Godfrey’s mental health isn’t important because it would interrupt Sara’s girlish fantasies of being romanced by this very obviously messed-up person.

There’s almost nothing to root for with this would-be couple, when this movie can’t even grasp the concepts of true love and how mental illness should be handled by people who really care about the mentally ill person. Coleman and Thune have zero chemistry together. Thune looks ridiculous in about half of his personas in this movie. His uneven performance as the joyless Godfrey looks like Thune is somewhat embarrassed to be there.

Meanwhile, Coleman has terrible comedic timing in many of her scenes. She also has a way of over-emoting that’s very annoying. This cringeworthy style of acting is most apparent in a scene that takes place in a park, where Sara unexpectedly runs into her ex-boyfriend Simon and his wife Allegra (played by Leanne Lapp), who is pregnant. Allegra is the woman whom Simon got together with after he broke up with Sara.

Simon and Allegra seem very happy about this pregnancy. Meanwhile, jealous Sara is shocked to see that Simon has changed his mind about being a parent. Sara spitefully tells Allegra that Simon said he didn’t want to be a father when he and Sara were a couple. Sara also makes a body-shaming comment to Allegra, by telling Allegra that her pregnancy makes her look “big.”

It’s unknown if writer/director Mok consulted with enough women before he wrote the atrocious screenplay for this movie, which is clearly targeted to a mostly-female audience. If he had, he would’ve heard that women (and movie audiences in general) enjoy romantic comedies the best when the people in these movies don’t act delusional, air-headed and degrading to other people when it comes to finding true love. And it’s become a boring and unimaginative cliché when romantic comedies have a scenario of women being catty to each other because of a man.

The tacky and unrealistic way that relationship issues are handled in this movie is not only an insult to women but also anyone who’s suffering from mental illnesses. In addition to horrible casting choices and sloppy direction, “The Right One” disregards the severity of a mental illness such as multiple personality disorder. The way it’s portrayed in the movie, multiple personality disorder is just a phase that someone can “get over” if the right person comes along to give them love. Well, there’s one way to “get over” a bad romantic comedy like “The Right One”: Just don’t watch it.

Lionsgate released “The Right One” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on February 5, 2021, and on Blu-ray and DVD on February 9, 2021.