Somebody I Used to Know (2023) Review: ‘Somebody I Used to Know’ becomes a touching film due to its empathetic approach. Released during valentine’s week, it makes up for a breezy romantic comedy that may not be memorable but is filled with a genuine sense of warmth. Streaming on Prime Video, the film’s screenplay is written by a real-life couple, Allison Brie and Dave Franco.
It deals with the protagonist – Ally (Alison Brie), who is down on luck in her chosen profession. Years ago, she moved out of her small native town to L.A. so that she could pursue documentary filmmaking. However, she got caught up in directing reality television and went along with the flow of it.
While she once harbored a passion for seeking truth through her work, she fell into the rabbit hole of the work that she got approached with. It gave her a chance not just to pursue a profession in this odd field but to get away from a past that she much preferred to forget. Before leaving, she was in a committed relationship with Sean (Jay Ellis).
He did not want to leave his small town, perhaps because of its comfort and coziness or his inability to change his set lifestyle. Ally, passionate about her filmmaking ambitions, chose her career over marrying him.
She felt liberated at the time due to the freedom this decision gave her. Yet the very decision kept her confined to being overtly committed to just this one thing, where she put all her self-worth in. Every success and failure became a part of her self-perception, which caused her to hit rock bottom when the show did not work.
Around the same time, she discovers that Sean is getting married and decides to fly back to her town. There are cliches attached to how small-town people perceive showbiz folks, and they are used in ample amounts.
Through Jeremy (Haley Joel Osment), we see a horny middle-aged father who tries hard to show how hip he is to the same showbiz talk. We meet Libby (Julie Hagerty), Ally’s mother, who is sexually charged and doesn’t care if her inappropriate behavior bothers you.
Benny (Danny Pudi) comes across as a close friend with whom you can speak cheerfully no matter how many years have passed. While all of these characters must be familiar to us, the direction places them in organic situations. Their amazing performances boost the film’s comedic quotient and keep it from becoming tedious.
In Sean’s young bride – Cassidy (Kiersey Clemons), Ally finds signs of herself, whose creative pursuit does not align with the idea of life that Sean wants to lead. While the man has an infectious charm about him, it bothers Ally how her situation is pretty much replicated with Cassidy and her music career ambitions.
She initially tries to sabotage their marriage out of jealousy (much like the mixed bag of emotions Julia Roberts’ character feels in My Best Friend’s Wedding). However, she goes through a journey of self-realization over the period, which would not have been nearly as effective if not for evocative performances and a sensitive direction.
Ally is someone we may detest early in the film. Why would we root for a person whose emotions are guided by jealousy? Why would we want to care for someone who is robbing someone else of the opportunity to experience genuine happiness?
In that conventional writing setup, the script traps itself and yet, brings out her realizations with a tender approach. At times, it tries to explain the exact intentions behind the character arcs, their change of heart, and the reasons for their actions.
Yet, despite these overt expositions and all its cliches, the film strikes a chord due to its non-judgemental approach toward the characters’ emotional struggles. Allison Brie’s eyes have never been as emotive as they are here, bringing out a sense of loss for the lost time, regrets, and satisfaction in attaining emotional maturity.
Besides her dramatic turn, I was delighted to see a ‘Community’ reunion in the film (perhaps the primary reason I chose to watch it in the first place!) Suffice it to say she still has an outstanding rapport with Danny Pudi. In the midst of their comedic moments, the film transforms into an emotionally potent rom-com that handles the process of ‘letting go’ with maturity.