Fresh out of Amazon’s movie studio comes this Valentine’s Day’s latest small-budget rom-com. Starring Allison Brie and Jay Ellis, “Somebody I Used to Know” sees our main character, Ally, pine after a decade-old ex to get back together. Despite having a pretty well-assembled cast of actors, this comedy of errors becomes a trainwreck of guilty pleasures.
Ally is an overworked Hollywood executive who returns home after having her reality TV show canceled. Following a quick flight back to her hometown in the middle of Washington, she reconnects with her old boyfriend Sean, who’s now getting engaged. After an exciting night galavanting around town, she kisses him in an attempt to reconnect the spark she lost all those years ago. Unfortunately, her attempt at sex fails and she’s sent home rejected.
Ally’s strong type-A personality works against her repeatedly throughout the film as she constantly feels the need to stick her nose in everyone’s business. Her main method of success comes from her ability to manipulate others by forcing them to open up about their biggest insecurities. While this worked well on the cast of her reality TV show, her constant attempt to use this on people she cares about is borderline sociopathic.
The writing in the movie is pretty hit or miss, with some scenes feeling a lot more chaotic than others. It follows the same sort of basic template as most Disney channel original movies, with the two main female characters pitting themselves against each other. But while Disney presents this idea for younger audiences, “Somebody I Used to Know” takes almost every chance it gets to interject a sex joke. Done cleverly, it’s like a perfectly executed double-hand spring at gymnastics practice but here, it’s closer to landing your crotch on a balance beam.
Danny Pudi makes an appearance as Benny to play the “I’m not sure this is a good idea” best man to both Sean and Ally. I’m not saying this is pandering to “Community” fans, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t obvious. Despite his best efforts – rather pathetically – Benny is unable to convince Ally to leave the wedding alone after Sean’s mother JoJo decides to make her the main videographer.
What’s a girl to do when her ex-boyfriend of 10 years ago is getting married to a woman he’s known for six months instead of sleeping with her upon their reunion? Sabotage his entire wedding apparently. Instead of focusing on new and uncovered territory, the writers were content to return to basics under a more modern lens. The movie acknowledges this in a scene where Cassidy, Sean’s fiance, asks Ally if she’s going to recreate the plot of “My Best Friend’s Wedding.” Ally answers no, then immediately plans to make the wedding miserable by inviting Cassidy’s estranged family.
Ally is vindictive, awkward and irresponsible. She’s a hard character to root for, a terrible friend and an unsympathetic daughter. But those aren’t completely irredeemable qualities, it’s rather that her character arc is uninspiring and bland. We don’t see any major changes in her behavior throughout the movie and instead are left wondering if she actually learned anything.
Nothing about this story stands out. The writing sounds like a conversation at a college dining hall table, the cinematography is barebones and the soundtrack is pretty underwhelming. But as a comedy, it redeems itself only through visual gags and cringeworthy moments — although not on purpose.
The formula for a good romantic comedy isn’t apparent, but mostly because very rarely does anyone try and make a good romance movie. It’s a genre swimming with mediocrity, and instead of director Dave Franco drawing inspiration from the greats like “Clueless” or “When Harry Met Sally,” he creates the least common denominator of comedy movies instead. Good enough to hold your attention with a partner, but dull enough that you’ll forget it in a week.