Synopsis – On a trip to her hometown, workaholic Ally reminisces with her ex Sean and starts to question everything about the person she’s become. Things only get more confusing when she meets Cassidy, who reminds her of the person she used to be.
My Take – While the romantic comedies usually play it pretty simple with enough hijinks, chemistry and charm, nowadays, some filmmakers, probably in an effort to make things interesting, add social messaging into the mix with a concerted effort to avoid ruffling feathers and hurting feelings.
For their latest, husband and wife writing team of Dave Franco and Alison Brie, with Franco directing and Brie in a lead role, too aim to take a mature look at a genre that has often been relegated to a rote formula. And by injecting the familiar plot we have seen countless times with a good amount of drama, the resulting film is more layered than the trailers might have lead you to believe.
A light comedy vehicle that isn’t exactly groundbreaking cinema but delivers a few decent laughs to make it breezy enough for a casual viewing experience, without being a typical break-up film, or sappy romance, or he/she is the one kind of story.
Sure, the film is held back by its often hit-and-miss humor, yet the feature deserves praise for its subtle and very necessary social commentary on romantic relationships. A message that can either validate ones feelings regarding a lot of things that are taken for granted in such relationships, and can serve as an eye-opener.
Since Dave Franco’s directorial debut, The Rental (2020), was of a completely different nature, the confident execution of this one comes as a good and welcome surprise that will surely draw in viewers, even after Valentine’s Day is over.
The story follows Ally (Alison Brie), a producer in LA who long ago abandoned her dream of making serious documentaries and now runs a silly dessert-centric reality TV show. But when her show is humiliatingly cancelled by the network, a devastated Ally comes back to her home town in a state of midlife crisis. And after spending a whole day frolicking about the town Ally ends up discovering that she is still very much attracted to Sean (Jay Ellis), a handsome, sweet local guy, whose heart she broke 10 years ago by leaving to pursue her film-making career.
However, she is left shocked upon finding out that she Sean is actually getting married to a stylish and super cool young musician called Cassidy (Kiersey Clemons), an information he conveniently forgot to mention during their wild night. Considering this a sign, Ally agrees to Sean’s mother’s (Olga Merediz) request and joins the festivities, making everyone uncomfortable, especially her old friend Benny (Danny Pudi), with her obvious desire to break up the relationship and get back with Sean.
But then there’s something else, the more she gets to know Cassidy the more they like each other, and Ally begins to see in Cassidy a younger version of herself. While on the surface that may seem like the film is already falling into the classic rom-com career woman trope, when in reality, we are dealing with a more emotionally mature and contemporary take on My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997). The dawdling setup easily lays a false trail of expectations.
There are all of the conceits and clichés of a rom-com peppered in the opening act of the film, led by Ally experiencing a somewhat early mid-life crisis when she cannot foresee where her career is headed and if she made the right decisions in her life. When she reconnects with Sean, it feels like destiny, but that begins to unravel when Ally realizes that she likes Cassidy and does not see her as an enemy.
The film works mainly because it is a story about coming to terms with being un-tethered, unsure of where your life is going, and being drawn back to the familiar and the nostalgia. But, the story also does not turn into a fairy tale or fantasy.
The film instead shows us what would happen if someone tried to enact such kind of plan in reality and whether it would lead to a happy ending or not. This story could have been a downer, but Franco’s restrained direction allows the script he and Brie wrote to shine through.
Although it’s a familiar premise, the two highlight something that’s seldom talked about in the rom com genre. Why do women always need to choose between love and ambition, while men can merely wait for someone to come along who will cater to their needs? And the worst part is that women are forced to feel regret for choosing one over the other.
The film offers a solution by saying that men have to come to terms with the fact that they can’t expect women to leave their aspirations behind and only support the ones that their male counterparts have. They have to adjust, too, and come up with ways to coexist. Because that’s one of the only ways to allow romance to thrive.
Performance wise, Alison Brie eases between a conniving and plotting romantic lead and a genuinely lost human. Here, Brie completely in her element and bares everything in a film that places her at the center. She manages to show off her amazing acting range and especially looks great in her nudist scenes. Jay Ellis, hot off the heels of Top Gun: Maverick (2022), shows that he is capable of oozing so much charisma that you won’t see the subtle misogyny of his character until it’s too late.
Kiersey Clemons too does a fantastic job as a bisexual musician with familial and romantic baggage. The entire supporting cast is fantastic too, with Danny Pudi clearly being the show stealer, with his interactions with Brie (a long-anticipated Community reunion) being the highlight. Haley Joel Osment too provides comic relief, with Julie Hagerty, Amy Sedaris, Olga Merediz, and Ayden Mayeri providing good support. Sam Richardson and Zoë Chao make for hilarious cameos. On the whole, ‘Somebody I Used To Know’ is a light romantic comedy that delivers something refreshing and new.
Directed – Dave Franco
Starring – Alison Brie, Jay Ellis, Kiersey Clemons
Rated – R
Run Time – 106 minutes