Somebody I Used to Know, 2023.
Directed by Dave Franco.
Starring Alison Brie, Jay Ellis, Kiersey Clemons, Danny Pudi, Haley Joel Osment, Amy Sedaris, Julie Hagerty, Olga Merediz, Zoë Chao, Evan Jonigkeit, Ayden Mayeri, Fabi Reyna, Marian Li, Ted Rooney, Rochelle Maria Muzquiz, Loudon McCleery, Phillip Ray Guevara, Hannah Barefoot, Sam Richardson, Leigh Guyer, Rachel Pate, Jeb Berrier, T’ai Hartley, and Kelvin Yu.
On a trip to her hometown, workaholic Ally reminisces with her ex Sean and starts to question everything about the person she’s become. Things only get more confusing when she meets Cassidy, who reminds her of the person she used to be.
Once the plot for Somebody I Used to Know – written by Dave Franco and Alison Brie and directed by the former – fully kicked in, there came the point where every instinct pointed to inevitably hating the movie. Consider it a true “wait, this is what the movie is about” moment that, thankfully, pays off due to the understanding that certain characters are unlikable and in the wrong about things while allowing them to evolve in grounded ways. The relationship drama here is far more effective than the forced and often unconvincing comedy.
Ally (Alison Brie) left her small Washington hometown for Los Angeles to develop her artistic side, eventually becoming the showrunner of an oddly intriguing reality show mashup of dating and cooking. However, the ratings are declining, and she has been informed it’s not likely to be picked up for another season, which spurs a trip back home to visit her highly sexually active mom (Julie Hagerty), which splinters off into a reacquaintance with several old friends including a serious ex-boyfriend named Sean (Jay Ellis), who is surprised with mixed emotions to see her back, and days away from marrying Kiersey Clemons’ much younger aspiring rock musician Cassidy.
Considering Ally’s life is in a rut, and the accidental babbling from Sean’s friend Benny (Danny Pudi) reveals that the husband-to-be acted strange upon discovering of her arrival back home, she not only begins to believe that there are still some romantic feelings left (they also enjoy some time together before Ally learns about the upcoming wedding, demonstrating that there is still a connection), but that she should take matters into her hands and sabotage the wedding. It’s familiar romantic comedy territory that the screenwriters assure they are aware of through Sean’s pop culture obsessed non-blood related brother Jeremy (Haley Joel Osment), a lovable dimwit.
Sean’s family also happens to be ecstatic to have Ally back, bringing her aboard as a videographer documenting the wedding with a series of interviews similar to her reality TV show, where she is skilled at manipulating people into getting desired responses. It’s also not a surprise that Ally plans to use those same tactics to drive a wedge between Sean and Cassidy, attempting to get him back.
However, once Somebody I Used to Know allows Ally and Cassidy time to get to know one another, the former not only realize how similar they are to the latter, but it’s also made known that Sean, who has abandonment issues from his parents and Ally choosing a career in Los Angeles over the relationship, is not confronting those problems, has control issues, and is drawn to someone younger, presumably hoping that this time, the woman chooses him and a traditional family life over pursuing artistic endeavors. There is a relatable, universal human drama that begins to take over the broad comedic aspects and lend some reason and empathy to disagreeable character behavior.
There is an extension of understanding identity and what one wants in life by giving Ally a pro-nudist background, which crystallizes on-screen in beautiful moments of solidarity. Dave Franco and Alison Brie have crafted a decidedly mainstream film, but it’s not without little flourishes, seemingly coming from a personal place. The characters become multidimensional as Somebody I Used to Know goes on, and even if there are some corners cut and baggage that should be dealt with more, there’s empathy for everyone here and their complicated dynamics.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com