'Somebody I Used to Know' Is a Hollow Imitation of a Movie We Used to Know

Directed by Dave Franco

Starring Alison Brie, Jay Ellis, Kiersey Clemons, Haley Joel Osment, Danny Pudi, Julie Hagerty, Amy Sedaris

Photo: Scott Patrick Green / Prime Video

BY Rachel HoPublished Feb 10, 2023

Somebody I Used to Know is the very definition of a fine-but-not-good movie. It's amenable, has some good performances and is decently made. It's also very forgettable without anything particularly interesting attached to it. My two takeaways after the movie finished were: 1. my favourite part was singing along to Third Eye Blind's "Semi-Charmed Life" over the end credits, and 2. throughout the film, all I wanted to do was watch My Best Friend's Wedding

For Dave Franco's second directorial effort, he tackles the classic rom-com with a 2020s spin. Gone is the high-powered lady journalist who wants to write hard-hitting op-eds but is stuck writing about the season's best lipsticks. Instead, there's Ally (Alison Brie), an aspiring documentarian who is stuck producing reality television. And forget about the Wall Street bro (or sports exec) — Sean (Jay Ellis) is a... renovation/design guy? He gave the local bar a facelift is what we know. Ally and Sean are each other's first loves and were on track for their happily ever after storybook ending until Ally decided she wanted to pursue her dreams and move to L.A. 

After her show, Dessert Island, gets cancelled, Ally returns to her hometown where she bumps into Sean and the two spend a beautiful evening together, retelling old jokes and reliving old memories until the sun comes up. She soon discovers that her arrival happens to coincide with Sean's wedding week. And just as Julia Roberts's Julianne did all those years ago, Ally decides to concoct a plan to break up Sean and his bride-to-be, Cassidy (an impossibly charming Kiersey Clemons). 

My Best Friend's Wedding doesn't have ownership over the break-up-a-wedding rom-com device, but when there's an accidentally sent message that causes the bride to act out in anger towards the groom and a rousing karaoke-esque scene that starts out rough and finishes with cheering, it's difficult not to compare the two. And those comparisons aren't kind to Somebody I Used to Know

To be a successful derivative of a '90s classic requires something new and slick for audiences to grab onto. Franco and Brie (the film's co-writers) attempt to assuage the Gen Z/young millennial market with greater focus on Ally and Cassidy's desire to fulfill their dreams and professional aspirations. (Cameron Diaz's Kimmy had a similar reckoning with Dermot Mulroney's Michael, although she very quickly backtracked.) It's a valiant effort with some payoff in the end, but it's ultimately a cursory offering that does little to add anything compelling to the formulaic narrative.

One marked difference between the films is in the treatment of Ally and Julianne. While both are the "villain" of the film, Ally being an uninvited guest and absent for so many years makes her actions feel particularly cruel and juvenile — which is fine until we're asked to have some sympathy for her at the end. Luckily, Brie is a naturally likeable performer (and aided greatly by her reunion with fellow Community alum Danny Pudi, who's in the Rupert Everett role), and she does a formidable job in moving the film along without it feeling like a chore.

There's nothing inherently wrong with trying to make a film in the guise of another; watch enough movies and there will be a stark realization that Hollywood has been recycling ideas for some time. If done correctly, there's an opportunity to lift the original and create a distinctive note for a new film. But, if done poorly, the recreation rings more hollow than usual. Unfortunately, Somebody I Used to Know is closer to the latter than the former.

Franco does try to save the film from comparison, though, by going meta and name-dropping My Best Friend's Wedding in the film. But as Bo Burnham so aptly taught us: "Self-awareness does not absolve anybody of anything."
(Prime Video)

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