Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr. are persuasively hot for each other, and director Norman Jewison shows his deftest comic touch since Moonstruck in detailing their sparring, but it is Italy — shot with shimmering grace instead of travel-agency gloss by cinematographer Sven Nykvist — that fills Only You with magical romance.
Italy also works wonders on a Cinderella-redux screenplay by Diane Drake that requires a massive suspension of disbelief Faith Corvatch (Tomei), a Pittsburgh schoolteacher, is convinced she is meant for Damon Bradley, a man she doesn’t know. But Faith believes in fate. A childhood encounter with a Ouija board and a fortuneteller gave her the name. Now the adult Faith is about to let go of her dream and marry a podiatrist. She is even trying on her bridal gown when a call comes in from a friend of her fiance’s. He is at the airport, headed for Venice, and can’t make the wedding. His name? Damon Bradley. Still in her gown, Faith rushes off to Italy to seek Damon and destiny. If you’re wondering why she doesn’t seek therapy instead, Only You is not for you.
With is the kind of fuzzy-dreamer role that Meg Ryan has a lock on. It is hardly a knock on the sexy, sharp-witted Tomei to say that whimsy isn’t her strong suit. She didn’t win an Oscar for My Cousin Vinny by being a cupcake. Tomei is nobody’s fool, not even fate’s. It helps when Faith trades in Pittsburgh for Positano, a location better suited to amorous flights of fancy. It helps even more that Bonnie Hunt is along for the ride as Kate, Faith’s friend who has just left the husband (Fisher Stevens) she thinks is cheating on her. “Men should wear shirts with LIAR written on them,” says Kate, who ends up dangerously close to an Italian Romeo (Joaquim De Almeida of Clear and Present Danger). Tart tongued and touching, Hunt is a find.
Downey, a world-class charmer, also scores points as an American shoe salesman who enjoys a lip-locked evening in Roma with Faith by telling her he is Damon. Is he? Or is the mystery man Billy Zane, hilarious as a brainless, boobgrabbing hunk Faith finds by a pool? No fair giving away secrets as the movie becomes a series of searches until Faith finds her man and her heart. Only You isn’t much more than target marketing for the Sleepless in Seattle crowd. But bella Italia supplies just the aphrodisiac to make it the current date movie of choice.