Review by Cole Groth
It’s almost time for Valentine’s day, which means the season of love is upon us, and rom-coms will be topping charts on streaming services everywhere. This year, you’ll be able to choose between two romance films: The Ashton Kutcher and Reese Witherspoon-led Your Place or Mine and Dave Franco’s sophomore directorial effort, Somebody I Used to Know. If I had to choose between the two, I would recommend the latter, a more complex, heartwarming, and daring romantic dramedy led by a powerful Alison Brie. While it’s not a traditional rom-com, its artistic endeavors make it so good.
Plot-wise, this film is a bit hard to explain. We follow Ally (Brie), a workaholic TV producer who’s just had her TV show canceled. After returning home, she has a chance encounter with her ex-boyfriend, Sean (Jay Ellis). Their romantic night together brings Ally back to a time when she was happier. When she visits his family the next day, she learns that Sean is getting married. I’ve seen a few rom-coms in the past when relationships get destroyed for the main character to get his or her way but rest assured, Franco’s direction takes us down a more satisfying road.
Somebody I Used to Know doesn’t play exactly like a rom-com but is more of a journey of self-discovery and the messy roads that love takes us down. Brie and Franco, a married couple, co-wrote the script, and it’s pretty great. It gets surprisingly vulgar and takes us down some uncomfortable territory, but through a rocky second act, we arrive at a satisfying third act. It helps a lot that Brie, Ellis, and Kiersey Clemons pull through as the central love triangle. Fans of Community will be excited at the supporting role of Danny Pudi, who brings great comedic levity to a somewhat grounded rom-com. There’s a lot of chemistry between everybody involved, making each romantic moment believable.
At a relatively brief 105 minutes, this rom-com makes for a pretty easy watch. For anybody who wants to watch an elevated rom-com, this will more than satisfy, but those who like simple, breezy rom-com might get turned off. Quite a few questionable decisions are made, both in front and behind the screen, and this is not a film that the whole family can enjoy.
The first thing many viewers will think of when seeing the title is the all-time great Gotye song from 2011. Unfortunately, Franco didn’t think to include this in the film even though it fits perfectly with the film. With Amazon producing this, it probably isn’t hard to get the rights to a 12-year-old song. Beyond the fact that they share titles, they share similar themes of reflecting on a past love. While it’s not a devastating loss, little things like this make me wonder if studio executives are in touch with any popular culture.
Fortunately, the rest of the score is excellent. While missing an obvious song choice is lame, composers Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans bring a lovable indie charm. The cinematography is also surprisingly good, with the shooting location of a picturesque Oregon making each scene beautiful in its own way.
With a seemingly endless catalog of rom-coms releasing each year, studios can either stick to the formula or deliver us daring films that put a spin on the genre. While it’s easy to love the formulaic ones, I’d choose the bold choice any day. While Somebody I Used to Know isn’t a rom-com that I’d recommend to everybody, its message will resonate with many viewers. It teaches us the importance of not losing yourself and how your past can ground you in the important things in life. The last scene is one of my favorites of the year so far, and it solidifies Franco and Brie as a good duo for writing. I’ll look forward to their following projects.
Somebody I Used to Know releases on Prime Video on February 10th.