Written by: Robin C. Farrell | February 9th, 2023
Somebody I Used to Know (Dave Franco, 2023) 2 out of 4 stars.
While Somebody I Used to Know is a not-so-subtle retread of the 1997 My Best Friend’s Wedding, made evident by its trailer alone, there is a bit more to be discovered here than you might expect. But it’s a small bit. Written by wife-and-husband duo Alison Brie (Spin Me Round) and Dave Franco (Day Shift), who also directs, the film commences with Ally (Brie), a TV Producer facing the at first just likely—then confirmed—end of her reality show, Dessert Island.
It’s clear from the start that Ally is passionate about her work, a documentarian at heart (despite her current gig), even if her skill is not taken all that seriously by those around her. In the interest of taking some less-than-preferred time off, Ally returns to her hometown in the Pacific Northwest to visit her mother. Instead, her attention switches gears completely when she bumps into her very serious ex, Sean (Jay Ellis, Top Gun: Maverick), and sparks immediately rekindle, despite the fact that he’s engaged to be married in a matter of days.
Though overall enjoyable, this film had the potential to be a lot more, given some of the themes it plays with. Where it could have dug deeper, however, punches are pulled and the script opts for humor and/or shock value, which is a shame. The pacing can be languid and the plot relatively predictable. Even if it does distinguish itself enough from My Best Friend’s Wedding before it outright acknowledges the similarities, more deviation could have done the film a lot of good. Sean’s bride-to-be, Cassidy (Kiersey Clemons, Susie Searches), is by far the most compelling character. She’s so interesting, in fact, that you’re left to ponder how much more unique and inviting the film would have been had she been the protagonist, rather than Ally (or at least introduced earlier in the story). It certainly would have been a bigger variation from the source material.
Beyond the expected and well-trodden genre trappings, however, the main characters’ journeys are mainly driven by the ever-perplexing attempt to balance creativity and relationships, be they romantic, familial, or friendships. The film posits the question: can you have both? And it asks that question from all sides; as the thriving artist, as the partner of the artist, and as a has-been contemplating regret and next steps simultaneously. Occasionally, these explorations feel surface-level, truncated in service of hijinks and machinations of the romance and comedy, which is, again, unfortunate. Ally’s relationship with her mother, for example, is barely explored at all.
Everything leads to a rewarding, if a bit farcical, ending. The film works, despite the disadvantages, because of its underlying message about understanding yourself first, no matter how messy or complicated that might be. It’s not the most philosophical meditation on relationships, but if you’re looking for something new to watch for Valentine’s Day, this will absolutely fit the bill.