Zoe Kazan ("Ruby Sparks") portrays identical twins Laurel and Audrey in "The Pretty One." Laurel feels like the uglier and more unsuccessful twin who never accomplished anything in her 21 years of existence. While she has artistic talent, she's not brave enough to venture off on her own and still finds herself living at home with her father Frank (John Carroll Lynch) and his fiance May (Shae D'lyn). Meanwhile her sister Audrey has her own place in the city, is very successful selling real estate, and is the beautiful woman Laurel has always wanted to be. After some convincing, Laurel decides to move in with Audrey but a car crash interrupts what would otherwise be a happy occasion. The crash takes the life of one of the girls, but the other survives yet is stricken with amnesia. As she slowly gets her life back on track, this young girl soon begins to realize that a very big opportunity has just presented itself.
"Ruby Sparks" was the film that Kazan was really able to show how talented she really is as an actress. Her performance in "Ruby Sparks" is where the initial spark of interest came from for "The Pretty One." The first half of the film is basically what you'd expect from a film of one actress portraying twin yet very different sisters; overly emotional drama, corny humor, and two girls who are polar opposites. It isn't unbearable, but it's nothing extraordinary either. The complexity comes in after the car crash when one twin starts pretending to be the other one. So now you've got one actress as one character stepping into the shoes of another and being conflicted by it. It's kind of like when a voice actor does the voice of another cartoon character with the voice he or she has become famous for.
The car crash seems to smack some sense into the entire film along with introducing the Basel character played by Jake Johnson. It's interesting seeing Johnson and Ron Livingston in another film together so soon after "Drinking Buddies" yet their characters find themselves in a situation that is very similar in both films. The chemistry between Johnson and Kazan is what makes the film worthwhile. Basel seems like a normal guy who is very in-tune with what he's looking for in a potential relationship and also quite funny. Johnson's interactions with Kazan just feel very genuine of two people trying to get to know each other before it gets serious.
Laurel is very easy to relate to. Even if you've never had any brothers or sisters getting overlooked for someone who is much more confident and comfortable in their skin is something that has happened to just about everyone. The film is about self discovery and realizing you don't have to hide in the shoes of others or live in a carbon copy of someone else's life just to be happy. But it's as if the film lacks that extra bit of momentum to push itself over into memorable territory. The humor in the film is amusing, but never really results in hysterical laughter while the serious nature of key moments in "The Pretty One" aren't depressing enough or feel like they're resolved too quickly.
As someone who has dealt with being depressed for quite some time and who has had their life get that much better thanks to someone walking into it and always being there, "The Pretty One" can and will probably speak to you if you've ever felt like you needed to find someone to share life with to be happy. "The Pretty One" is like that transition in your life when you've spent so long crawling through mediocrity and settling for whatever you have, but then that light bulb finally turns on and you realize you deserve more. But the message the film tries to deliver is more powerful than the journey. Zoe Kazan does an excellent job portraying two separate characters while Jake Johnson continues to have a strong screen presence in film, but "The Pretty One" is never able to overcome its weak first half which is overloaded with weak story points, lame dialogue, and poorly developed characters.