The vivid color palate of “My One and Only,” which tells the story of actor George Hamilton’s 1950’s cross-country trip to Hollywood with his Southerner mother and step-brother, helps to give the 2009 movie a vintage postcard feel that the filmmakers play to great effect. A lot of characters pop up in episodes as the trio rides a baby blue 1953 Cadillac convertible to stops in New York City, Boston, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Albuquerque and Hollywood. Thankfully, the strong and guiding presence of Renée Zellweger as George’s Mom, Anne Devereaux, keeps the film interesting amidst the chaos.
This version of George Hamilton’s life before he became famous starts at a Cadillac dealership where George (Logan Lerman) attempts to pay cash for a car. The dealer won’t let him use cash and threatens to call the police, so George tells a story that starts when Anne returns home to find her husband Dan (Kevin Bacon) cavorting with another woman. She leaves Dan, raids his safe deposit box for cash and jewelry and orders George to buy a car. Soon, Anne comes to George’s rescue at the dealership and the journey to Boston begins. Her purpose: To find a man to marry even if she has to travel the entire United States of America. It’s unclear whether the route included Hollywood at first, but Georges half brother Robbie (Mark Rendall) wants to be an actor, so the trio adds the West Coast to the trip.
George wants to reconnect with his father, so he’s only mildly cooperative with his mother. As in another film starring Logan Lerman, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” from 2012, George is shy, quiet and reserved. The driving force of the movie comes not from his troubles but from the heartbreaking attempts by Anne to hook up in marriage with a decent man. She starts in Boston, where she meets an ex-military man with a charming personality but a thinly concealed temper. Then Anne and the boys move on to Pittsburgh, where romance goes nowhere for Anne but George gains affection from a straightforward and pretty teenager named Paula (Molly Quinn). She speaks her mind and challenges George to respect his own feelings. This serves as a precursor to an inevitable clash later between George and Anne.
The movie seems most interesting in St. Louis, where Anne takes the boys to live with her uncooperative sister, Hope (Robin Weigert). One particularly moving scene has Hope telling off her sister while Anne keeps control of her temper. Hope comes off as someone who forgets to be grateful, but not because Anne manages to get the upper hand. Zellweger’s Anne is pushy but surprisingly subtle at the same time. Ultimately, all the disappointments Anne Devereaux suffers lead to an ending we all know is coming. George Hamilton somehow makes it in Hollywood.