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“You’re not gonna pull some Julia Roberts ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’ type of shit, are you?” About 45 minutes into Prime Video’s Somebody I Used to Know, Kiersey Clemons’ character, Cassidy, asks this of Ally, her soon-to-be husband’s ex-girlfriend who seems intent on ruining their wedding weekend. Yes, this is the movie somewhat heavy-handedly reminding us that this won’t be the romantic comedy we’re used to, but the line’s perhaps unintended consequence is that of me falling deeply in love with Clemons’ Cassidy. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Somebody I Used to Know is a new romantic comedy from the writing duo (and real life couple) Alison Brie and Dave Franco, the latter of whom also directs the film. It follows Ally (Brie), a television producer whose dessert-themed reality show gets canceled, forcing her to return to her hometown to reevaluate the choices that led her from aspiring documentarian to the architect of the perfect “background show.” When she gets to town, Ally immediately reconnects with old friends, including her ex-boyfriend Sean (Insecure’s Jay Ellis) who seeks her out at the local bar. The two share a 12-hour-long hang that rivals even the first dates of some queer couples I know. What Sean fails to mention in that entire time though, is that he is engaged and getting married that very weekend.
If you’re thinking, “Wow, Nic, that sounds like the plot of at least six rom-coms I know!”, that’s because it is. But what Brie and Franco attempt to do here is to completely subvert the expected romantic tropes in favor of telling a story about how sometimes “the one that got away” did so for a very good reason, and that maybe the idealized version of love we are often enamored with isn’t the only way to find a happily ever after. And the thing is, the movie mostly succeeds in that goal! Where it falls flat for me is in the lack of chemistry between characters, and in the entitlement and honestly the sheer audacity of Ally and her initial plan to win Sean back.
It’s wedding weekend. Enter: Cassidy, Sean’s 20-something biracial bisexual fiancé who is the lead singer of a punk rock band. She’s sexy, she’s confident, she’s passionate about her craft, and she isn’t here for Ally’s games or bullshit. One of my favorite things about Cassidy is that she doesn’t pretend not to know why Ally has inserted herself into this weekend after not speaking to Sean for ten years. There’s no passive aggression, it’s just, “I see you. I know why you’re here. Get right or get out.” Spoiler: Ally does neither of those things. At first.
The thing about Cassidy is that she knows exactly who she is, she knows what she wants, and in fact, I think her assuredness is what grounds this movie while the other main characters are out here flailing about. It’s the thing that Ally used to see in her own self. Does Cassidy have moments of doubt and insecurity? Of course! She wants to continue to tour with the band instead of Sean’s ideal scenario of staying in the town he grew up in to start his own family. But when all is said and done, Cassidy staying true to herself is what gets both Ally and Sean to realize where they’ve gone wrong.
Now, just because Ally as a character really grinds my gears, doesn’t mean there weren’t things I enjoy about this movie! One is that Ally and Cassidy end up spending a fair amount of time realizing they have more in common than they originally thought. Personally, I’m chalking that up to Cassidy’s emotional maturity, but it was nice to see the trope of two women fighting over a man upended a bit. Something else I really did appreciate is that Cassidy’s bisexuality is never the reason for any conflict between her and Ally or her and Sean. It becomes relevant for reasons that I won’t spoil, but I loved that it isn’t a Thing. (I won’t lie though, there were moments where I yelled, “He’s just a stupid boy!” at my television.)
Overall, Somebody I Used to Know was a fine departure from the typical movies that come out every year around Valentine’s Day. I think what would have at least made Ally’s antics slightly more bearable is if she faced any real consequences for her actions. Which she does not. And that just doesn’t sit right with my spirit. I will say though, the one rule of romance is that there’s a happily ever after, and while it doesn’t look like the HEA you expect, it’s the HEA that feels the most real.
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