Disrupting the rom-com canon
Dave Franco directs and co-writes with Alison Brie a determined subversion of timeworn romantic comedy tropes in Somebody I Used to Know. But even the disruptive aspects of the film can’t overcome its banalities.
Brie stars as Ally, an unfulfilled career woman living in Los Angeles. It’s already a familiar story when, following the cancellation of her reality show Dessert Island, Ally leaves the hustle and bustle of L.A. for her quieter hometown of Leavenworth. Reconnecting with her ex-boyfriend Sean (Jay Ellis) sets us up for classic Hallmark fare: woman casts off career dreams to find happiness in man and small town living. But Franco and Brie had something much more refreshing in mind for Ally’s journey.
In a nod to the film’s predecessor, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Ally discovers Sean is engaged and vows to put a halt to the encroaching wedding in an attempt to rekindle a relationship with him. Sure, it pricks at her conscience the fact that his fiancée Cassidy (Kiersey Clemons) is cool and punk and reminds her of who she once used to be. But Ally only sees two ways forward: return to her unfulfilling work like, or make things right with Sean.
This is all the more reflected in Cassidy’s own struggle to balance her work/romance desires. Analyzing these is where the romantic comedy comes into its own and upends our expectations. Although there’s some teasing of who will end up with whom in the end, the ultimate message of the film is less about romance and more about chasing what you love no matter what–whether it be a person or career goal or some other dream.
The result is a dynamic template of a new kind of rom-com (anti-rom-com, perhaps?), even if all the moving parts don’t quite fit together. Although the film breaks away from convention, it doesn’t feel fully formed in its critique. The message is rushed and too direct, betraying a lack of trust in viewers’ intelligence.
Somebody I Used to Know, it seems, would rather distract us with pretty bells and whistles, such as the film’s cast. A star-studded supporting cast contributes little to the film’s overall quality (unless we’re talking “Hallmark” quality). And Brie, though characteristically charming, isn’t at her best here.
Ultimately, Somebody I Used to Know is far from strikingly subversive, but still provides a pleasantly original twist on the romantic comedy genre.
Read More: Somebody I Used To Know Ending Explained
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Verdict - 6/10