Someone I Used to Know (2023) ☆☆☆(3/4): Before her ex-boyfriend’s wedding

“Someone I Used to Know”, which was released on Amazon Prime in last week, does not break any new ground in its genre territory, but it is smart and witty enough to engage us at least during its running time. Right from the beginning, we can clearly see where it is heading, but the movie is driven mainly by its broad but colorful characters instead of merely resorting to its genre conventions, and we come to care about the ending a bit more than expected.

During the opening part of the film, we get to know how things have been disappointing for its heroine. There was once a time when she was a young and ambitious documentary filmmaker who aspired to make some good documentaries, but Ally (Allison Brie) is now stuck with a superficial reality TV show just for earning her living in Hollywood, and she gets only cynical consolation from how slyly she can draw emotional responses from the participants of her reality TV show for more rating.

However, her supposedly good days are soon ended because her reality TV show is abruptly canceled due to its considerably low current rating. Maybe she can go on with another reality TV show not so different from the previous one, but Ally is not so eager to do that, and she eventually decides to have some rest in her hometown in Washington, not long after she receives a casual phone call from her mother.

When Ally unexpected comes to her family house along with her pet cat, Ally’s mother Libby (Julie Hagerty, whom you may remember for her memorable comic performance in “Airplane!” (1980)) surely welcomes her daughter, though she is doing something which embarrasses Ally for good reasons. When she later goes to a local bar just for staying away from her mother’s active private life, Ally happens to come across her ex-boyfriend Sean (Jay Ellis), and she cannot help but attracted to him again as they spend more time together.

However, Sean becomes defensive when Ally eventually attempts to get closer to him, and there is an understandable reason for that. When she subsequently shows up at his family house, she belatedly comes to learn that he has been engaged to a woman named Cassidy (Kiersey Clemons), and Ally soon finds herself getting herself involved with the preparation for Sean and Cassidy’s upcoming wedding just because Sean’s parents are still fond of her even though they were separated around 10 years ago. When Sean’s indomitably persuasive mother Jojo (Olga Merediz) asks Ally to shoot the wedding video for Sean and Cassidy, Ally cannot possibly say no, and she comes to spend more time around Sean and many others around them.

One of them is Benny (Danny Pudi, who previously worked with Brie in TV sitcom series “Community”), who incidentally was one of Ally’s close friends before Ally left Sean and her hometown for pursuing her nascent filmmaking career. As your average no-nonsense friend, Benny instantly senses something going on between Ally and Sean, so he sincerely advises her that she really should be careful about whatever she really feels, but then Ally cannot help but wonder whether she can start over with Sean.

The situation becomes more complicated as Ally gets to know Cassidy more. Although she instinctively sees a potential trouble from Ally as soon as they are introduced to each other, Cassidy tries to be nice to Ally at least, and, what do you know, she eventually shows a lot more of herself to Ally than expected. Coming to learn that Cassidy is quite conflicted about Sean expecting her to give up her musician career, Ally comes to have more doubt on Cassidy and Sean’s wedding, but then she also questions whether her view is biased by her old feelings toward Sean.

The screenplay by Brie and director/co-writer Dave Franco, who has been married to Brie since 2017, is often predictable, but it still holds our attention as it handles its main characters with care and respect. While both Ally and Cassidy are depicted as flawed but likable human characters, Sean turns out to be much more than a mere plot element stuck between them, and a bunch of supporting characters are also crucial in generating the warm and breezy comic mood of the story. For example, Sean’s goofy younger brother Jeremy (Haley Joel Osment, who reminds us again that, as a seasoned adult actor, he has been far and far away from his Oscar-nominated breakthrough turn in “The Sixth Sense” (1999)) is surely the main source of comic relief in the film with all those exaggerated behaviors of his, but we still can sense the sincere affection behind his silly appearance, and we come to smile along with others around him.

In case of the eventual climactic part, it surprises us as being a little more complex than expected as not only Ally but also Sean and Cassidy come to reflect on themselves and what they really care about. Along with Brie, Jay Ellis and Kiersey Clemons ably handle this tricky part with some integrity to their respective characters, and that is why the result is accompanied with genuine poignancy. Around these three good performers, Franco assembles a bunch of distinctive performers including Danny Pudi, Haley Joel Osment, and Julie Hagerty, and the special mention goes to Olga Merediz, who steals every moment of her appearance despite her seemingly thankless role.

On the whole, “Someone I Used to Know” is not particularly fresh compared to many senior romantic comedy films such as, yes, “My Best Friend’s Wedding” (1997), but it is still entertaining enough for recommendation at least. Compared to Franco’s debut feature film “The Rental” (2020), this is a lightweight genre stuff in comparison, but it shows that Franco is a competent filmmaker who can easily switch from one genre to another, and it will be interesting to see what he will try next.

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