REVIEW: Somebody I Used to Know (2023)

Alison Brie and Danny Pudi star in Somebody I Used To Know — PHOTO: Scott Patrick Green/Prime Video

Directed by Dave Franco — Screenplay by Dave Franco and Alison Brie.

Somebody I Used to Know is Dave Franco’s second film as a director. The actor-turned-filmmaker has teamed up with his wife (and co-writer) Alison Brie, of Community, Mad Men, and GLOW fame, to make a modern romantic comedy with an indie look and references that make it clear that the filmmakers behind Somebody I Used to Know are fully aware of the films they’re aping. The film isn’t merely derivative; you know where it’s going almost from the minute the premise has been introduced to you. 

Dave Franco’s Somebody I Used to Know follows Ally (played by Alison Brie), a career woman who works in reality television. After her show Dessert Island (it’s basically The Great British Bake-Off mixed with some island-set dating show) is canceled by studio executives, she finds herself at a crossroads and with an identity crisis, as she has nothing outside of the Los Angeles-set career that she has built for herself. She decides to take a break by going back to her hometown and visit her mother in Leavenworth, Washington. At a public bar, she reconnects with an ex-boyfriend, Sean (played by Jay Ellis), who she hasn’t seen in a decade. Back then, she chose her career and herself over the life Sean wanted for them, and now she thinks this could be fate’s way of telling her that she should date him again. And so she kisses him. The next day, she visits him at his family’s home and finds out he is engaged to be married in the next few days to Cassidy (played by Kiersey Clemons), a younger punk-rock musician. Ally wants to start over with Sean, but she also sees herself in Cassidy, who seems to know exactly why Ally is there. 

The film is built around a feeling that is very easy to relate to, which is this late-twenties or early-thirties fear that what you’ve decided to dedicate your life to was perhaps a mistake. When it deals with this career crossroads, I think the film is rather strong. This is in large part because Alison Brie is in good form here as a woman who feels like the industry has warped her dreams, and who is having second thoughts about her life. In fact, I think there are some really solid performances here, with Jay Ellis and Kiersey Clemons similarly delivering strong work as well-realized characters. It’s also — as a huge fan of Community — absolutely delightful to see Alison Brie and Danny Pudi in scenes together again. 

Unfortunately, I think the film stumbles when it comes to comedy. While it feels like an indie romance film about an identity crisis, the comedy — and particularly the style of it — feels off. There are a lot of crass jokes and even some gross-out gags, and this part of the film rarely works. To add to that, the film is reference-heavy. While I do like cinema-conscious and media-literate films, there are times when it feels like it’s just throwing out reference humor for cheap laughs, as well as other times when the references reveal to the film’s audience exactly how unoriginal the concept is. The film outright calls out its resemblance to My Best Friend’s Wedding

Dave Franco’s Somebody I Used to Know is not as funny as it thinks it is and it isn’t as original as you may have hoped it would be. But it features a solid cast doing good and charming work, as well as fallible, realistic characters. It is a film about self-love and grounding oneself that is disguised as a generic romantic comedy. If it were more original, it would be a lot more interesting, precisely because it looks good and is fairly well-acted. 

6 out of 10

– Review Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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