Making a modern romantic comedy is tough sledding. So much in the genre has already been done, both very poorly and very well. Throw in how the recent fickleness of audiences has made it a less viable theatrical proposition, and there’s a real possibility that the rom-com could be on its last legs. That makes the effectiveness of something like Somebody I Used to Know all the more notable. It’s incredibly aware of what romantic comedies consist of, but is never a slave to what expectations front he genre might be. It all adds up to a winner for Amazon, as it’s about to be a very popular Prime Video watch in advance of Valentine’s Day.
Somebody I Used to Know is smart enough to use the genre for its most effective parts, while casting aside what doesn’t work. The intelligence and wit on display makes this an incredibly easy experience to enjoy, but one shouldn’t sleep on just how effective it is, from start to finish. There’s a lot to like here, regardless of how you feel about rom-coms, in general.
Ally (Alison Brie) wanted to make documentaries as a teen. Now, she works in entertainment, but she hosts a dessert based reality show. Still, she’s a workaholic, even if she’s not fulfilled by it. When the show appears headed for cancelation, she opts to return to her quaint little hometown.. Her childhood bedroom is waiting, even if her mother (Julie Hagerty) seems to be having sex in every other room. In short order, she runs into her ex Sean (Jay Ellis), getting to hang out with him. She makes an awkward pass at him, which he rebuffs, and that’s only more embarrassing when she finds out he’s engaged. That being said, Ally is not above potentially rekindling something, as she’s rethinking all of her recent life choices.
Wrapped up in pre-wedding events she’s been somewhat halfheartedly invited to, Ally is fully planning to try to win Sean back. Then, she meets his fiancé Cassidy (Kiersey Clemons), who not only sees right through her, but reminds Ally of who she used to be. Ally and Cassidy initially have an antagonistic relationship, but as one starts to win over the other, a friendship begins, concerning Sean. Can any good come of this? Well, you’ve seen movies like this before, but this one manages to carve its own path in the end.
Alison Brie is both incredibly charming and also realistically flawed here, essaying a compellingly complex character. She’s not the only one, either, as Kiersey Clemons and Jay Ellis have far more dimension to what could easily have been stock roles. The same goes for Julie Hagerty, just with less scenes. Brie is the focal point, however, with Clemons next in line. The former is messy yet incredibly fascinating to watch, while the latter is just a great sparring partner. Supporting players include Ayden Mayeri, Olga Merediz, Haley Joel Osment, Danny Pudi, Sam Richardson, Amy Sedaris, and more.
Dave Franco makes this his second outing as a filmmaker, directing while this time co-writing with Brie. While his debut was a pretty dark horror movie in The Rental, he’s followed it up with a smart romantic comedy. The man has filmmaking range. Brie and Franco clearly know the genre well, leaning into elements that they know work, while subverting others. Somebody I Used to Know isn’t trying to completely blow up the rom-com, but by giving a classic tale a set of fresh eyes, they find a new way to tell it.
Character driven and ultimately featuring a strong message, Somebody I Used to Know is a winner. Whether you love rom-coms and just want a good new one or don’t tend to care for them, this has something to offer you. I had a great time with it and can’t wait to see what Franco makes next. Especially teamed with his real-life partner Brie, they’ve got something real good brewing here, creatively.
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