Renee Zellweger: she plays a southern belle who ditches her cheating husband and hits the road with her two sons. Absconding with several thousand dollars and some jewelry the three leave New York and explore the country, eventually making their way to California where- in true 50s style- have their ‘pull yourself up by your bootstrap’ dreams come true; each of her sons finds gainful employment in the entertainment industry while she herself comes to an epiphany that she doesn’t need a man to take care of her; sugar daddies are for the shallow. This is the plot of “My One and Only”. Both a romantic comedy and a road trip film, the movie traces Zellweger’s character as she hitches up with an assortment of odd ball men, each one more unsuitable than the last. Between military men, washed up entrepreneurs, socialites, and her pursuing husband, the morale of the tale is that happiness can only come from within. It is a typical story. An upper-middle class lady undergoes an existential journey vise via the diverse landscape of petty-bourgeois America and is rewarded for her transformation with an appropriately lavish award: stable- meaningful- work for her sons.
It is a tale of liberal charity masking the conceit of the upper class. The comedic do well attitudes of the protagonists, from spending hundreds of (1950 dollars) on crippled orphans, convincing abused working class women to leave their abusive husbands (thereby associating the proletariat with dysfunction and deceit, at least when this same woman steals cash from the wealthy uprights), and to educational scholarships being given for reasons none other than familial connections tied to a bit of skill with writing, the purpose of the movie is to gloss over the repressive nature of 1950s America in order to justify the acquiescence of labor to anti-communist propaganda, and freedom to the implied notion of traditional family values; this is why one of her sons shows effeminate (homosexual) tendencies- that even those who lack visibility are able to make in the world if they only surrender anti-establishment practices in lou of embracing conformity with the status quo; revolution is not needed as true liberation is found in the market place of not merely economics but social standing and gender roles. Of the protagonist’s sons the masculine (heterosexual) one takes on acting, a very manly profession (playing cowboys no less on where the effeminate failed), while the subdued homosexual one takes up costume design. Penultimately this is a capitulation to reactionary social morals; the ‘everyone has their proper place’ mantra echoes loudly in the bourgeois consciousness that is this movie.
Is the movie amusing? Yes. It is funny, witty, and glowing with a happy-go-lucky aura. It does not take itself too seriously, not with the travelers always finding their means of subsistence in the most unlikely of places thereby demonstrating the caviler ‘freedom of the road’ thesis. In high fashion it is not a pragmatic film; though the characters repeatedly say they are poor in actuality they are firmly situated in the middle class; they simply see themselves as poor because they no longer are seated within the upper echelons of that great imaginary class. So in this sense the movie depicts the ultra-sensationalized romanticism of the 50s as something both unobtainable and real: the social dynamic may have been forged only afterward by conservative apologists but the implied ideological stance was always there from the beginning; sure, everyone knows that the 50s were far from perfect but this is the intent of the film- to prove competency by satirizing the imperfect elements from a liberal lens effectively discrediting the leftists. Fiction all the way, then, in other words. At least it is amusing fiction in the very least. The hijinks of the vacillating petty-bourgeoisie is nothing, after all, is nothing but absurdity.