Somebody I Used to Know
Some movies are carried by a great performance. Some are carried by great direction. Others are lifted up by the cleverness of the premise or the wittiness of the writing. A lot can go into making something a success. Then there are some, usually comedies, that get by based largely on the charm/likability of their star, regardless of the overall quality around them. The low-key comedy Somebody I Used to Know (now streaming on Amazon Prime) is that kind of movie.
It stars Allison Brie (who co-wrote with her husband, Dave Franco, who also serves as director) as a smart, funny woman who is at a crossroads in her life and looks to the past in an attempt to fix what feels broken. She hasn’t necessarily written an original role for herself, or one that allows her to give a powerhouse performance. What she has created is one that gives her the opportunity to show off what she does best.
The mixture of comedy and sentiment suits her. She has a very likable and confident screen presence, effortlessly making her character relatable, even when she is doing something the audience may not approve of. Somebody I Used to Know isn’t a great entry in its subgenre, yet it is a pleasant one because of her.
Brie is Ally, the host/showrunner of a reality cooking competition. After her show is canceled, she returns to her hometown to spend time with her mother. While there, she reconnects with an old love and decides to do whatever it takes to get him back.
The obvious twist is that the old boyfriend is engaged and that weekend just happens to be his wedding. His failure to disclose this information to her when they run into each other convinces Ally that she still has a chance. Her plan is made easier by the fact that his family loves her and is thrilled to include her in the festivities. Brie is both funny and oddly sympathetic as Ally tries to manipulate her way to her goal. The key here is the screenplay never gets mean. These characters are mostly nice people, who make mistakes while figuring out how to be happy. Sometimes the mistakes are big, but Franco and Brie never miscalculate by having Ally cross the line from selfishly hopeful to selfishly desperate.
The best, and freshest, aspect of Somebody I Used to Know is actually the relationship between Ally and Cassidy, her ex’s fiancée. Cassidy is wary of this woman, whose motives she suspects. However, their conversations are interesting in the way they force both women to reflect on themselves. There is a lot more substance in this pairing then there is between either of them and Jay Ellis, as groom-to-be Sean.
Despite Kiersey Clemons as Cassidy not being given the same room as Brie to create a fully fleshed-out character, there is enough in the traits she has been given to establish an intriguing foil for Ally. Their scenes together shake the movie out of its routine slightly, pushing it in a more thoughtful direction.
The “dissatisfied adult goes back home to try to figure out where they went wrong” plotline is essentially a genre of its own at this point (making this like My Best Friend’s Wedding remade as an indie). Somebody I Used to Know hits all the expected beats in telling this familiar story, mostly in the expected ways. The screenplay plays it safe, but contains enough laughs and is just generally entertaining. Even though it is predictable, Allison Brie easily keeps it afloat with her charm and solid comic timing. The result is a fairly enjoyable formula comedy.
3¼ out of 5
Allison Brie as Ally
Jay Ellis as Sean
Kiersey Clemons as Cassidy
Danny Pudi as Benny
Haley Joel Osment as Jeremy
Directed by Dave Franco
Written by Dave Franco and Allison Brie