"My One and Only" is creme-filled fluff partially dipped in bittersweet chocolate.
It is boosted by engaging acting performances, led by Renee Zellweger's portrayal of an aging Southern charmer.
The opening credits map the route Zellweger, as Anne Devereaux, and teenage sons George (Logan Lerman) and Robbie (Mark Rendall) will follow on a road trip from New York to points West. The opening scene wastes little time explaining why: Ann discovers her husband Dan (Kevin Bacon), a society bandleader and playboy, in bed with another woman.
(Dan's one hit was "My One and Only," the film's title, leading Ann to quip, "The only thing louder than its arrangement is its irony.")
The picture, helmed by British filmmaker Richard Loncraine ("Firewall," "Richard III"), quickly sets this unconventional mom and her kids on Route 66 in a brand-new, baby blue 1953 Cadillac convertible. George, the film's narrator, watches through a 15-year-old's jaundiced eye, while half-brother Robbie works on his needlepoint in the back seat.
Ann's plan is to look up former suitors in search of a second, wealthy husband, and they turn out to be beauts. She also has a promising chance encounter with Col. Harlan Williams (Chris Noth, Mr. Big of "Sex and the City").
An attempt in Pittsburgh to hook up with an old flame who has taken up with a woman half Ann's age forces the realization that her alluring charms might have an expiration date. It doesn't help when, on the same night, her friendly advances toward an undercover detective land her in inconceivable trouble.
Other stops in this (mostly) comedic travelogue include St. Louis, with Ann's jealous sister, Hope (Robin Weigert), and Hollywood, where Robbie can get his hoped-for chance to act.
The outward confidence and Southern panache of Zellweger's Ann bear little resemblance to the actress's most memorable role to date as Bridget Jones. But as setbacks force Ann to come to terms with her life, so they do, too, for George.
The teen struggles with being cast aside by a father who isn't much of one and a self-absorbed mother who can't tell him his shoe size or notice his penchant for "The Catcher in the Rye."
George's character is based on the real-life story of actor George Hamilton, who executive-produced the film. Lerman, who did a fine job in "3:10 to Yuma," does so again in this coming-of-age story in which his character is infused with surprising integrity.
That includes the way he treats a neighbor his age who offers to show him her breasts at the drive-in, and asks whether she should do so for money.
"My One and Only" won't fill you up, but it has its moments, and it has good acting. And sometimes, that's enough.
MY ONE AND ONLY
Three stars (out of four)
STARRING: Renee Zellweger, Kevin Bacon, Logan Lerman, Chris Noth
DIRECTOR: Richard Loncraine
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
RATING: PG-13 for sexual content and language.
THE LOWDOWN: A 1950s period comedy about a Southern belle who leads her two sons west in search of a husband.