Review: Somebody I Used to Know Channels Classic Rom-Coms for an Art House Crowd
Co-written by spouses and frequent collaborators Dave Franco and Alison Brie (and directed by Franco), Somebody I Used to Know is essentially an art-house adaptation of My Best Friend’s Wedding, that frenetic, late-’90s rom-com that’s endured as a contemporary classic of the genre. Franco and Brie’s version is so meta, in fact, that at one point one of the characters references the Julia Roberts vehicle as a cautionary tale.
Brie stars as Ally, an ambitious and overworked reality TV producer whose dreams of documentary filmmaking haven’t exactly turned out as planned. When her latest series gets cancelled, she heads back to her small hometown and her mom’s house to lick her wounds and reassess her next steps. Before long, she’s seeing all kinds of familiar faces, including her third grade teacher who’s now shtupping her mother, and her ex boyfriend, Sean (Jay Ellis), with whom she quickly slips back into a comfortable rapport. They stay up all night catching up and reminiscing about their past together, and it’s clear these two share a history whose final chapter hasn’t yet been written.
But the unexpected happens when Ally attends what she thinks is a family brunch that turns out to be the start of Sean’s wedding weekend, his fiancée Cassidy (Kiersey Clemons) by his side. Soon, she’s roped into attending as the event’s videographer (get it, she’s a filmmaker?), and Sean, Cassidy and Ally have some complicated feelings and messy interactions to work through together and individually. Brie and Franco play with predictable rom-com plot points just enough to keep things interesting; at one point, Ally gives in to her baser instincts and connives to have a couple unexpected guests attend the ceremony, hoping it will throw a wrench in the plans. It’s exactly like something Roberts’ Julianne would’ve done (and did, lest we forget, in her own analog way), but in Somebody I Used to Know, the filmmakers are confident enough in their characters to not let the film devolve into wacky antics and one-liners.
It’s not likely that Somebody I Used to Know will go down as a milestone in the genre; it’s not exactly exceptional, as it were. But there’s plenty to recommend it, from its unassuming, muted style to a cast that feels connected and authentic. Brie plays Ally as a young woman a bit at sea, lost as to her purpose and direction and second-guessing every decision that’s led her to where she is today; her vulnerability and eventual emergence are genuine and engaging. Only his second feature film behind the helm (2020’s The Rental also managed to play with genre tropes in relatively interesting ways), Dave Franco has a knack for creating intimacy without losing a thread of levity throughout. Not every beat works here as we watch Sean and Ally find their way forward together and separately, but enough of it does to make for a pleasant, original relationship dramedy.
Somebody I Used to Know is now streaming on Amazon Prime.
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