Actors do well with thin plot in 'My One and Only'

My One and Only (PG-13)

2 1/2 stars out of 4

Opening with a barrage of post-WWII ads, jingles and assorted iconic visuals, "My One and Only" sets the stage for a light and breezy comedy; something it achieves about half of the time. The rest of the time it's either unfunny or a thinly executed melodrama.

Chirpy, talky and eager to please, it's based on a year in the life of a Hollywood actor who is more famous for being famous than for his slight thespian skills. Exactly who that actor is isn't revealed until the movie's last scene, so his identity won't be revealed here.

The story is introduced with voice-over narration by lead character George (Logan Lerman), a well-spoken teenager wise beyond his years and the movie's only grounded character. George explains why he, his half-brother Robbie (Mark Rendall) and mother Anne (Renee Zellweger) are moving out of the Manhattan apartment owned by his bandleader father Dan (Kevin Bacon).

Dan is an unapologetic skirt-chaser and has finally pushed Anne past her breaking point. With her platinum-dyed locks, clipped delivery and quick, purposeful gait, the former Southern belle Anne suggests Blanche Dubois minus the psychotic outbursts.

Putting pride above all other concerns, Anne leaves Dan and hits the road in a brand new Coup de Ville in search of a new husband and bread-winner. Stops in Boston, Pittsburgh and Baltimore yield possibilities but none pan out. Anne doesn't seem to realize that a once-divorced, recently separated woman in her 40s with two tag-along teen boys isn't most men's idea of an ideal catch.

The trio eventually land in St. Louis at the home of some not-so-pleasant in-laws yet things start looking up for everyone, at least for a while.

Shooting for something the along lines of a bi-polar Preston Sturgess production, infrequent director Richard Loncraine ("Firewall," "Richard III") and his set of production designers nail the look and attitude of mid-50s America quite well but are regularly hamstrung by Charlie Peters' lightweight screenplay.

Peters is able to script a number of quick and snappy one-liners and rejoinders but the plot and tone are far too erratic. There also are two scenes involving an arrest and a potential hostage situation that not only kill the mood, they add nothing substantial to the story. A brief sub-plot featuring Chris Noth as a bull-headed Army officer is also a bit off-putting.

The performances of the actors playing the four core family memories are all good, but it is the relatively unknown Lerman who makes the greatest impression. Seen previously as Christian Bale's headstrong son in "3:10 to Yuma," the intense and assured Lerman looks and acts more like a teen version of John Malkovich than the actor he's depicting here. It will be interesting to see where Lerman goes from here. He's got the potential for true greatness. (Herrick Entertainment/Freestyle)