Movie Review TagSomebody I Used to Know, directed by Dave Franco and starring his real-life partner Alison Brie, creates a sticky situation we’ve seen in more than a few 90’s rom-coms, particularly My Best Friend’s Wedding. Halfway through this charming albeit restrained yarn, you realize that Franco is actually referencing the 1997 Julia Roberts blockbuster and then subverting the tropes it established to tell a different story about falling in love with yourself instead of chasing romance as if it were a beast that needed to be tamed.

Brie plays Ally, a lonely and capricious producer of an awful reality show, “Desert Island,” which features celebrity chefs competing to make the best dessert on, you guessed it, a desert island. When she finds out her show is getting canceled, she slinks back home to the charming village of Leavenworth, WA., where she hopes to rediscover herself. Her mother (a frazzled Julie Hagerty) is excited to have her back, although her sex life overshadows Ally’s, which is on display from the moment she walks in the door.

Ally encounters her old flame Sean (Insecure’s Jay Ellis), who she broke up with years prior to pursue her career. Without bringing up their rocky past, they embark on an all-night drinking spree in Leavenworth, which rekindles the burnt out flame inside of her. In fact, Ally is so excited about their impromptu date, she’s determined to win him back, hoping to both eradicate her present disappointments and pave a golden path for her future.

Unfortunately, Sean is about to marry Cassidy (Kiersey Clemons), a spunky bohemian who plays in a punk band and loves Sean with something fierce. At this point, a sane person would admit defeat and take the first flight home, but Ally insinuates herself into their wedding by offering to film it. Without a tactful plan in place, she hangs out at every function, batting her eyes at Sean, while secretly hoping he falls back in love with her. But Cassidy is no fool. Once she suspects Ally of infiltrating their upcoming nuptials, she befriends her in order to discover her motives. The core of the film involves Ally and Cassidy circling each other like panthers, resulting in an interesting kinship. Meanwhile, poor Sean bobs in the middle of this tempest with a lost stare which garners the film’s best laughs. Ellis’ performance is one of the film’s highlights.

Although the plot is derivative, it’s deliberately so, and Franco’s direction streamlines the sporadic scenarios by grounding it with a viscerous chemistry between his players. At times, the narrative almost caves in on itself from spending too much time with insubstantial characters –including supporting cast members Haley Joel Osment and Danny Pudi– but thankfully there’s more invested in the quiet moments, like when Ally locks eyes with Sean across a crowded room, or when Cassidy glares at Ally, realizing she’s her nemesis. Franco revealed this same adeptness for storytelling in The Rental, which also dealt with uncomfortable situations adding layers of humor, tension and horror.

The Prime Video comedy’s main problem is with the script (co-written by Franco and Brie), which is far too sweet and timid for its own good. Everyone is so darn earnest, you forget the framework of the story, which has malicious and multifaceted underpinnings. At times, the movie drifts from Ally, whose intentions should be front and center, and instead finds refuge in all the noise surrounding her. For some reason, Franco thinks all the wedding guests are hilarious, which they are not, at least not enough for a “hang out” ensemble cast comedy. Also, Ally comes off too humble and friendly for such a problematic character. If she has a dark side, the movie won’t go there. The script constantly tries to convince us that she just stumbles into doing terrible things, instead of explaining why she’s doing them, which results in a pretty limp catharsis.

There’s no doubt that Somebody I Used to Know (which references the Gotye song in title only) is an intelligent and sweet romp. Brie is an undeniable talent (she was equally engaging in last year’s Spin Me Round), as are Ellis and Clemons, who all exude an infectious humanity. You might even walk away feeling fuzzy and cute, but nothing discernible or concrete. If you’re going to undercut rom-coms, make sure you’re just as sharp as your target. My Best Friend’s Wedding might be outdated, but there’s a reason people keep revisiting it, and it’s not because it holds back. Franco’s attempt to reinterpret the genre by grounding it in a kind universe is respectable, but ultimately it’s bland. Have we become so scared of offending each other that it’s bled into our storytelling? Leave your niceties at the door, film is a forum where human failings and frailties should reign.

















































































































































































































































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