Review by David Baldwin
Jenny (Gina Rodriguez) and Nate (LaKeith Stanfield) have just broken up. They were dating for 9 years in New York City, but decided to end their relationship when Jenny gets her dream job at Rolling Stone magazine in San Francisco. With one week until the big move, she looks to her friends Erin (DeWanda Rise) and Blair (Brittany Snow) to help cheer her up and go on one last adventure.
It took me two tries to watch Someone Great. Admittedly, I was extremely tired the first time I watched first-time director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson’s film and fell asleep after about 20 minutes. But I watched it again from the start the next day, and immediately realized what a terrible mistake I made. Robinson has created a raw, emotional, and charming film that speaks to what friendship means in the face of becoming an adult — and the maturity on display here may catch you off guard.
Robinson sets out from the beginning to tell a real story that is free from the trappings of a conventional Hollywood rom-com. In fact, it does the film a disservice to even refer to it as a romantic comedy. Yes, it does have elements of that genre scattered throughout — and does a rather poignant job of flashing back to both pivotal and inconsequential moments in Jenny and Nate’s relationship. It even spends some time digging into Erin and Blair’s love lives. But the film never wallows or stays in those moments long enough to truly be deemed romantic in the conventional sense of the genre.
Instead, it follows our characters through one hell of a day through New York City. They drink. They smoke weed and do molly. They hang out. They swear their faces off (and yes, it’s never not going to be odd to hear Jane the Virgin drop so many f-bombs). They sing at the top of their lungs inside a bodega. They are very much their own characters, and are not defined by their romantic entanglements. They are real characters facing real problems, and are not stock Hollywood cutouts. If the casual drug use was not refreshing enough, then that element of the real certainly is.
Where Someone Great falters is in its inconsistencies. It tries so hard not to be every other romantic comedy, that it feels like a strange betrayal when it ends up falling into those genre trappings. It never emphasizes the “high” the characters have when they do drugs like every other Hollywood film would, but then suddenly does for no reason other than to make a deadly serious moment lighter and more comedic. I know the tone of real life is far from consistent, but these odd pivots really take away from moments that could and should have been stronger.
The main trio of Rodriguez, Rise and Snow are terrific in their roles, breathing life into these multi-faceted characters. They each get plenty of moments to shine and are just as funny as they are dramatic. By the time the films ends, you will wish you could have spent even more time with them. Small supporting turns from Stanfield, RuPaul Charles, Peter Vack, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Alex Moffat and Rosario Dawson are all well done.
I did not initially expect a lot from Someone Great, but I ended up really enjoying the film. The genuine love and admiration Robinson has for her characters and her fabulous cast is evident at all times, as is her keen eye as a writer and director. I only hope this coming-of-age film gets the audience it deserves so she can catapult into even greater projects in the future.
And now I just need to muster up the courage to start drinking bourbon through a straw, straight from the bottle. If I can get to that level of badassery, then anything is possible.