Netflix is at it again. I don’t think even the right-wing supporters ever tried to push a certain perception of Indian youth as much as Netflix has been attempting to do. This time, they have the perfect ally- Excel Entertainment, who have forever been in the business of shaping this perception. Honestly, I had particularly loved the previous Netflix-Excel collaboration “Eternally Confused and Eager for Love” for its sharp humor & cool characterizations. It was refreshing to see “Friday Night Plan” not go the rowdy, sex & drugs overdosed “Class” way but taking a sweeter “What are the odds?” route. Alas! “Friday Night Plan” is neither as fun nor deep.
“Friday Night Plan” is about two siblings, the recently turned 18, Sid (Babil Khan), and his brother Ali (Amrith Jayan), who is two years younger than him. As stereotypical as it gets, Sid is the more responsible, introverted elder brother who is often annoyed at his laidback, spirited younger brother- who, in turn, just wants his brother to take a chill pill in life.
The movie is about a day in their life when Sid suddenly shoots to fame after scoring a crucial goal against their arch-rival school and gets invited to the cool kid party FNP- Friday Night Plan. Reluctant at first, Sid agrees to join the party since FNP has a mythical reputation in his Solo school, and he literally earned the invite by scoring the goal. He takes his brother along since their mother (Juhi Chawla Mehta) is on a business trip, which means the brothers must confront and sort out their differences throughout the night.
I was looking forward to this movie since I have a real soft spot for the ‘One Crazy Night’ sub-genre films where a bunch of young actors are shoved into a house party to take on a time capsule to your own innocent and reckless teenage days. These films are often less relatable but more aspirational, yet you don’t mind it since it is filled with dorky characters, quirky dialogues, and crazy situations. “Friday Night Plan” is all about this dialed to its minimal and vanilla form. The “Superbad” inspiration is visible in how the plot is structured.
If “Superbad” was about the Homeric odyssey for booze to impress the crush, in “Friday Night Plan,” it is the mother’s car that they are forbidden to drive. The brothers’ chance encounter with the angry policemen will also remind you of “Superbad.” But here, not only does this subplot run on an emotional gamut, it is also genuinely smooth.
Since Sunchika Pandey started managing the funny Mumbai Police social handles, the public perception of an encounter with police might have changed, but we don’t get to see much of the same in movies. “Friday Night Plan” shows the exchange with the police very interestingly, making you smile. Also, we find an absurdly behaving referee early on in the film. However, since we see no such characters or instances later, we feel cheated and perplexed about the tone the movie wants to operate in.
When you make a film about a few SoBo kids having a good time in life, you need to make sure either you address a universal problem in the right way for the audience to emotionally connect with the characters or you need to make sure you give them such a madcap fun ride that they won’t care to dig deep. The problem with the movie is that it does neither of them. It just exists as just another film about stereotypical characters having basic problems. “Friday Night Plan” is not as nuanced or layered as “Spring Breakers” or “The Bling Ring,” neither is it as fun as “Dazed and Confused” or “Project X.”
It tries to offer a similar authentic zeitgeist of the early 2020s, but it doesn’t cover enough. We have also seen these tropes numerous times, where the gentle nerd finds it difficult to ask the School eye-candy girl to prom, and there is always a typically famous entitled brat and one bookworm girl lurking around to take part in the narrative.
The good thing about “Friday Night Plan” is that it doesn’t try to show any character as spoiled or evil that needs to be taught a lesson, but also, while doing so, it makes the proceedings a tad bit boring with nothing really at stake. In this garden of sweet but shallow characters is the school crush Natasha (Medha Rana), who gets the worst written character amongst all of them
None of the performances make you fall in love with the characters, who were, anyway, not offering much. Babil Khan’s performance is vapid. There is an air of innocence and free-spiritedness about his public appearances that he didn’t need in this character. His face is stoic in its best bits, and he performs well in scenes where he is introspecting. In the scenes where he needs to express emotions or where he needs to perform a sequence of moves, he struggles.
Like “Qala,” his director tried to save his weak acting with camera angles. But when you can’t even lip sync well in a party dance number- you should really get going with more acting workshops than Paparzazi interactions The other sibling, Amrith Jayan, is clearly the better actor among the lot. He is good both as the street-smart kid, always looking for attention, and also as the vulnerable one who is heartbroken, not receiving the validation of his brother. It was a joy to watch the effervescent Juhi Chawla Mehta on screen. I was just glad she didn’t play a helicopter parent like many of her contemporaries did in their comeback.
The director and writer, Vassal Neelakantan, doesn’t recognize that a larger audience doesn’t have much to relate with this SoBo lifestyle and doesn’t even attempt to provide an arc to his characters to make it a decent slice-of-life film. We are hinted at Sid-Adi’s depleting financial condition, but the struggles of their single mother don’t get the desired respect in the script. Though the film starts with family pictures of the father, we never really get the answer to the reason for his disappearance and how it impacted the siblings’ dynamic. Even Sid’s strong need to find a suitable foreign college was neither explained nor gets a closure.
Stand-up comedian Sapan Varma has written the dialogues for the film. Honestly, they weren’t even momentarily funny, let alone memorable. The movie’s lack of debauchery and hedonism will even shame a Sarkaari school nerd. The movie could have benefited if we knew that the protagonists had seen the cult high school party films and were consciously subverting them. Rather, the writing comes across as under-cooked, not knowing how to finish the sentence after uttering a confident “hi.”
“Friday Night Plan” exudes the energy of a few privileged city kids sitting down for a podcast, reminiscing a high school incident, and saying- “F***, that was just like a movie, bro.” Except, filmmaking requires more skills than quoting an incident on a half-hour podcast, and yes, our nostalgia-laden stories are seldom entertaining enough- unless you can fabricate them a bit.