Review: Dave Franco's 'Somebody I Used to Know' Misses the Mark
by Manuel São Bento
February 9, 2023
For me personally, Dave Franco was never an actor that carried such an aura that automatically made a film or series tremendously more interesting entirely due to his presence. That said, his feature directorial debut, The Rental (from 2020), left a good impression, despite the movie itself being far from perfect. On the flip side there's Alison Brie (best known from "Community", "Glow", Horse Girl, Spin Me Round). The actress has also ventured into producing and writing in recent years, and now joins her husband to star in the film Somebody I Used to Know, handling the lead role and sharing a screenplay credit with Franco.
Honestly, expectations weren't high for this one. Looking at the last films from both, not only is there a lack of impactful stories, but all their projects are usually surrounded by generic predictability. Somebody I Used to Know doesn't reinvent the genre or contain any surprises, but it doesn't intend to either. Franco and Brie demonstrate a perfect sense of what their movie is and the messages they want to convey to the audience. With a decent pace and an accessible structure, the story follows a natural course without major deviations.
The cast is, hands down, the best part of Somebody I Used to Know. Alison Brie leads the film with fantastic charisma, however both Jay Ellis and Kiersey Clemons impress as well. The chemistry between everyone is so genuine that it's clear they all had a very positive experience during the filming. The light atmosphere permeates the entire movie, from the humor to the themes addressed… which, unfortunately, raise several problems. The film has side storylines that aren't explored in the least, being used as mere plot devices to create conflict and drama without any reason to do so. The most serious is related to the sexual orientation of a character who, during the entire runtime, rarely receives any kind of attention or care. It's brought up as if it's an important character trait, but it's only highlighted again when there needs to be some confusion.
In addition to this and other forced moments, Somebody I Used to Know contains a secondary relationship conflict involving Brie's Ally and her mother that serves more as runtime padding than an actually crucial character arc or a relevant plotline. It doesn't quite end up getting closure worthy of the overall screentime throughout, nor does it offer unique comedy moments, repeating the same formulaic joke of finding her parents having sex. Overall, the story never becomes too fictional to the point of absurdity, but it doesn't contain any unique surprises that increase the excitement levels.
Character-wise, Somebody I Used to Know has its phases. Viewers follow these remarkably relatable people with common life dilemmas that, in my consideration, are excessively complicated and often impossible to decide upon. Franco & Brie manage to build an extremely captivating story when they focus on this essential topic of how to balance individual dreams with love, and a life with someone else, transmitting thought-provoking messages about self-esteem, confidence, and freedom, including a witty parallel with nudism.
Too bad it's so frustrating to see some characters do despicable, unforgivable things without having to deal with severe consequences. Everything that happens is excused and resolved too quickly and too lightly. I patiently waited for a couple of powerful dialogue scenes that would make the characters say everything they think about the clearly offensive, disrespectful situations, but it never gets to that point. There's a version of this story that might manage to exceed all expectations… it just isn't this one.
Franco's Somebody I Used to Know features a fantastic cast packed with chemistry as well as interesting themes, but the formulaic screenplay lacks depth and greater care regarding character treatment. Dave Franco and Alison Brie manage to convey meaningful messages about the dilemmas that arise when mixing individual ambitions with love life, though this is sullied by conflicts and drama forcibly provoked through awful human actions without any kind of real consequences. Secondary storylines linked to sensitive topics are approached in an exploitative, even childish manner. A movie of phases that falls short of its potential.
Manuel's Rating: C
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