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‘Somebody I Used To Know’ review: The back-to-home rom-com gets a refreshing plot update

Alison Brie plays a TV producer looking for purpose in her hometown when ex-bf played by Jay Ellis’s circumstances throws it out of wack.

Amazon Studios

Sometimes you get lost in life and need a little home cooking to find your way back to yourself. It’s a staple of many rom-com stories where a character revisits a love from their past, gets themselves in a sticky situation, but ultimately (and somewhat miraculously) end up together. Some of those threads are present in Dave Franco’s latest feature, Somebody I Used To Know, but at the same time, allows the film’s characters’ space to circumvent expectations into something just as satisfying – because maybe “what if’s” have a bit more weighted complication to them.

If there were a prototype of a quintessential workaholic, it would be Ally (Alison Brie), a TV producer fully enriched in her LA lifestyle on her third season of a dessert-making reality show that may be a step short of her want to make documentaries. While things might seem fulfilling, Ally is lonely, and her career hasn’t exactly made things easy to squash that feeling. A break comes in the form of the cancelation of her show, and at that point, Ally takes her mom Libby's (Julie Hagerty)’s invitation to go back home to Leavenworth, Wash – a quintessential small town.

Ally’s re-entry back to her classic abode is not exactly smooth sailing. Once she returns to her old house, she walks in on her mom having sex with an old teacher of hers. When Ally gets a drink at a local bar, she’s confronted by someone she may have kissed in her grade school days. To top off this smorgasbord of awkwardness, her ex-boyfriend Sean (Jay Ellis) walks in. At first, things are a bit uneasy, but they quickly have a night to reminisce about the last moments they had together during a night of fun – some fun of laughter and others full of regret. The following day, Ally confides to Sean that maybe she made the wrong decision in leaving.

Here, you can see their breadcrumbs possibly getting back together under the guise of unfinished business — at least in Ally’s peripheral when the pair share a brief kiss. There’s one issue, Sean is about to get married to Cassidy (Kiersey Clemons), a youthful punk rock singer. A mutual friend named Benny (Danny Pudi) serves as a go-between and sees what’s happening through the fog (so to speak). It’s probably not a good idea for Ally to attend any of these festivities, but the prospect of possibility blinds her. So, she accepts the job as the wedding cinematographer, much to the chagrin of Sean and Cassidy.

While at first, it seems like Ally will do anything to get Sean back, Franco and co-writer/real-life partner Brie change up the script a bit. See, Somebody I Used To Know is more of an exercise in self-discovery other than implanting yourself within old situations. We all have situations we ruminate in – figuring that if we chose them, our lives would be much happier. Ally is indulging in this partly because her life is turned upside down. As she gets to know Cassidy and her background, she realizes much of the heaviness inside the bride-to-be resided in her during her younger days.

Sean is entirely ok with staying in Leavenworth and working with his father as a contractor. Within that choice, Cassidy has to give up being in her band, Dirty Blush to make this marriage happen. In relationships, you have to make sacrifices, but is this fair? As the film continues, Ally starts to see a lot of the younger her in Cassidy. Did she necessarily pick the wrong choice in following her dreams? These three characters then have to reckon with what real happiness looks like – a feeling that’s different by the time they reach the end.

This plot satisfies because the trio of Brie, Ellis, and Clemons are able to switch from comedic tones to emotional expressions within a natural flow. While some of the jokes might not land as well, the inclusion of Pudi, along with the silly giddiness of Haley Joel Osment as Sean’s brother Jeremy. Usually, we come to root for the old couple to get back together, even at the expense of the new person – and that’s not really nice. With Somebody I Used To Know, it’s more of a reward to see these people get back to who they were rather than who they should be with.