SOMEBODY I USED TO KNOW: 3 ½ STARS. “a story about passion, but not romantic passion.”
Despite Thomas Wolfe warning, “you can never go home again,” characters in rom com after rom com do just that. Just in time for Valentine’s Day comes “Somebody I Used to Know,” a charming new Alison Brie movie, now streaming on Amazon Prime, that defies the usual romantic comedy playlist.
Brie is Ally, the hard driving producer of the recently cancelled reality show called “Dessert Island.” Cut adrift from the long hours and stress of life in Los Angeles, she ignores Wolfe’s advice and returns home to her hometown, the quaint, Bavarian-styled village of Leavenworth, Washington.
Being home again stirs up some ghosts for her. Memories of the simple, happy life she had before her career complicated everything come flooding back, just as she has a chance encounter with her ex-boyfriend Sean (Jay Ellis).
They haven’t been in contact in 10 years, since Ally skipped town to pursue her career, but both feel a blast of nostalgia. “Here we are,” says Sean, “going down memory lane!”
“I kind of resented your entire industry for a long time,” he tells her, “for taking you away from me.”
A few laughs, some reminiscing and a quick kiss later, Ally wonders if Sean is the one who got away. Trouble is, he’s engaged to Cassidy (Kiersey Clemons), a punk rock singer about to give up her career to settle down.
Determined to win back Sean’s affections, Ally uses all the tricks she learned making reality TV to wage a not-so-clandestine campaign to derail the wedding and win back her ex.
“You’re not going to pull some Julia Roberts, ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’ stuff are you?” asks Cassidy.
“Somebody I Used to Know” defies the usual romantic comedy formula. You know how most, if not all, rom coms will end. The good ones are about the journey, not the destination. This one, director Dave Franco’s follow-up to the creepy “The Rental,” is about both, a classic rom com st up that walks a different, sometimes bittersweet, path to its destination.
It is a story about passion, but not romantic passion. It’s about a lust for life, following your heart and making choices. It’s a refreshing genre twist in a film, that despite a slow start, pays off as a compelling story about empowerment.
As Ally, even at her most devious, Brie brings enough authenticity and charm to keep the character likable. There is enough chemistry between her and Elis to fuel the film’s fire, but it is in her scenes with Danny Pudi, one of her former “Community” co-stars, where the platonic sparks fly.
The relative simplicity of “Somebody I Used to Know” is its main selling point. Unlike other recent rom coms—I’m looking at you “Shotgun Wedding”—it avoids screwball situations in favour of human contact and actual emotion.