Alison Brie & Dave Franco’s Rom-Com Isn’t Worth Catching Up With

Feb 15, 2023

Even though it’s just a two-hour drive between Seattle and Leavenworth, arriving in the picturesque, Bavarian-themed town is meant to feel like you’ve landed in an entirely different country. The aggressively artificial village — complete with an annual Oktoberfest celebration — is not the obvious setting for a rom-com, but it’s an unintentionally inspired one. I can only imagine that nothing ever feels quite real in Leavenworth, but everyone appears to be having a good time regardless, and that’s the general experience of sitting through “Somebody I Used To Know.” There’s not a single moment in the film that is palpably authentic or genuinely romantic, but the ensemble nonetheless puts their pluckiest foot forward.
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After a pretzel-filled montage with our ostensible star-crossed lovers, the laggardly-paced film still takes a moment to get around to its setup. Once an aspiring documentary filmmaker, Ally (Alison Brie) has returned home to recalibrate after her reality food show “Dessert Island” (truly shocking, this actually doesn’t exist in real life) is left in limbo after a third season ratings dip. Almost immediately, she bumps into Sean (Jay Ellis), a former flame whose heart she regrettably broke when she dashed off to California to pursue her dreams. It’s all water under the bridge as they pick up right where they left off, spending a magical evening together that finds them talking until the sun comes up the next morning. But [Bavarian record scratch]: Ally finds out that Sean is engaged to be married to Cassidy (Kiersey Clemons), a biographical detail he pointedly decided not to mention, with the wedding happening in just a matter of days. This information only temporarily dampens the flicker of Ally’s flame. Convinced there’s still a spark between them, she decides to follow her feelings for Sean, barrelling ahead to see where they take her, even if it means upending the big day for the soon-to-be newlyweds.
So far, so rom-com, but the film’s biggest issue is that it’s difficult to see what the fuss is about Sean that two women would want to catch him. Penned by Alison Brie and Dave Franco — who also directs — their script allows Ally and Cassidy to engage fully and honestly with their emotional barometers. Ally has the awareness to question the basis of her motivations for Sean, even while acknowledging their undeniable forces of attraction, while Cassidy gets a quick read on the situation and works through what that means between her and the husband-to-be. The testy yet friendly dynamic between Ally and Cassidy is easily the most interesting element of “Somebody I Used To Know,” but it can only go so far because, as the genre demands, there needs to be an object of affection for them to battle over. It’s just unfortunate that it’s Sean who wanders around the story as a mostly confused, self-centered, wet blanket. With no agency of his own — both unwilling to tell Ally to back off or firmly declare his love for Cassidy (it must be stressed, she’s the woman he’s about to marry) — frankly, he deserves neither of them.
As the main trio tiredly ping pong back and forth, thankfully, the supporting players are up to the task of keeping things at least slightly lively. Brie’s “Community” bud Danny Pudi delivers a nice turn as Benny, a friend to both Ally and Sean, who does his best to keep either of them from making decisions that will hurt the other. Julie Hagerty is always a delight, even if she’s slotted into a largely thankless (but sex-positive) mother role, bringing an easy sensitivity to her performance as she tries to get some facetime with Ally, who rarely returns home. But the surprise MVP is Haley Joel Osment as the garrulous, fun-loving, celebrity-worshipping “Blast From The Past”-referencing Jeremy. He’s Sean’s brother, but more importantly, he’s just happy to be along for the ride, enjoying the opportunity to be the (very wholesome) life of the party. Osment is a welcome jolt of energy (gamely throwing down on the dancefloor to do the worm) to a movie that otherwise labors around its all-too-familiar and transparent plot structure. 
Following his decent horror debut, “The Rental,” in which he showed flashes of directorial verve, Franco is on autopilot with his sophomore effort. In fairness, working with cinematographer Brian Lannin, they do accurately capture the grimly grey skies of Washington, but one would think for a film that wants to sparkle with the possibility of renewed passions, you don’t want it looking like Bela Tarr’s b-roll. These are the kinds of observations that come wandering into your mind as the film meanders toward its predictable finale. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but sometimes “Somebody I Used to Know” isn’t worth looking up. [C-]
“Somebody I Used To Know” premieres on Prime Video Friday, February 10.

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