Synopsis: On a trip to her hometown, workaholic Ally reunites with her ex-boyfriend Sean, which makes her question her life choices. This feeling is exacerbated when she meets Cassidy, a younger woman who reminds her of the person she used to be
Stars: Alison Brie, Jay Ellis, Kiersey Clemons, Julie Hagerty, Haley Joel Osment, Amy Sedaris, Danny Pudi, Zoë Chao, Evan Jonigkeit, Olga Merediz, Ayden Mayeri, Kelvin Yu
Director: Dave Franco
Running Length: 106 minutes
TMMM Score: (6.5/10)
Review: There are inevitable drawbacks to making a modern romantic comedy, no matter how you approach it. Audiences have seen countless tales of singles mingling with the lover they think is the right one for them, only to realize what we already know: they should be barking up another tree. Writers, directors, and actors can take any route they want to get from point A to point B, but we’ll cross that finish line eventually. A viewer wants a creative journey as we pass through, and that’s where a horse of a different color, like Somebody I Used to Know, might come in handy.
Written by husband-and-wife celebrities Dave Franco (who also directs) and Alison Brie (who also stars), Somebody I Used to Know has the structure of My Best Friend’s Wedding. Still, the cinematic innards are decidedly tailored to Brie’s fondness for high-stakes dark comedy. It’s not a warm and fuzzy flick to cuddle up to but rather a frank look at relationships from multiple angles. Here you get perspective from those on the inside and the onlookers peeking around the corner hoping for a sample.
After her cheeky reality show is canceled, Ally (Brie, Spin Me Round) takes the advice of her agent (Amy Sedaris, in a too-brief cameo) and heads home to Leavenworth, WA, for some downtime with her mother (Julie Hagerty, Marriage Story). Finding her mother otherwise engaged (with her former high school teacher), Ally ventures into town and has a chance encounter reconnecting with her ex, Sean (Jay Ellis, Top Gun: Maverick). Prosperous and stable, Sean presents a picture of normalcy in Ally’s abnormal Hollywood life. And he’s getting married in a few days to Cassidy (Kiersey Clemons, Scoob!)
Of course, Sean neglects to tell Ally this until she knocks on his door the next day, just in time for a pre-wedding meal with the assembled guests. Sensing that Sean isn’t over her, Ally jumps at the chance to stick around as the videographer, delighting his mother (Olga Merediz, In the Heights) and free-spirited brother (Haley Joel Osment, The Devil Has a Name). As the weekend progresses, Ally brazenly targets the apparent weaknesses in the couple’s relationship to win Sean back. The pursuit of lost love becomes more complex, though, as Ally’s friendship with Cassidy grows and, through her, sees echoes of herself and the life she’s chosen.
I’ve always been a little on the fence with Brie, and Somebody I Used to Know hasn’t thrown me off my perch either way. It has reinforced my admiration for Brie’s boldness in pursuing roles rarely depicted onscreen. She can quickly humanize characters that are not simply flawed but have off-kilter personalities and help the viewer relate to them. Turn Ally’s pursuit of Sean up a notch, and she becomes evil, dial her back, and you lose the tension that forms between her and Cassidy. It’s a fine line, and the fact that she wrote it makes it easier for her to play it well.
That ease has a trickle-down effect on the rest of the cast. Ellis and Clemons complete the love triangle with sharp, confident edges, and Ellis especially finds new layers in what typically is the least exciting side to form the emotional shape. I fully believed Hagerty and Brie could be mother/daughter and only wish we had a few more scenes of them together. Danny Pudi (The Guilt Trip) makes the most out of the head-shaking best friend that is powerless to stop Ally’s madcap train of meddling, and Osment is entertaining as Sean’s brother, always up for a laugh.
Filmed in a picturesque locale, Somebody I Used to Know is a solid sophomore outing as a director for Franco. Back in 2020, he was behind the camera for the surprisingly effective thriller The Rental (also starring Brie), and he’s pivoted genres nicely with this pleasant, if at times, heavy-handed romantic drama. The first half of the film has a nice flow to it, but once we get into the more serious second act, a cold vibe seeps in and drowns out any lightheartedness we were able to draw early on. When the film takes itself and its characters too seriously, it loses our attention, but as it finds the balance between characterization and tone, it hums nicely.