“We understand the characters’ bonds, we believe in them, and though the film is light in tone and weak in structure, we can track their growth.”
by Ken Bakely
There are no particularly memorable scenes or driving moments that put Jennifer Kaytin Robinson’s Someone Great ahead of the rest of the endless parade of comedies about young adults living in populous cities. However, there’s a deep sincerity to this film that assures us from the get-go that it isn’t operating on autopilot. A flurry of flashback scenes, reaching back almost a decade before the movie’s main events, fill us in with surprising effectiveness to characters and dynamics that we can quickly learn the rhythms of. A montage of social media posts at the beginning informs us of Jenny (Gina Rodriguez), a journalist in New York City who has recently received a job offer in San Francisco. It’s a massive step forward for her career, and she fully intends to accept it, but the mere news of the move has caused Nate (Lakeith Stanfield), her boyfriend of nine years, to abruptly end their relationship, claiming he doesn’t think long-distance relationships are worth the trouble.
This means that at this pivotal time in her life, Jenny has to rely on her two closest friends – Blair (Brittany Snow) and Erin (DeWanda Wise) – both for support in the forthcoming move and navigating through the breakup. (Blair and Erin are also working through respective relationship challenges.) And so, in an effort to forget about their troubles and make some final memories together, the three go on a madcap adventure that begins with attempts to score concert tickets, and as such things must go in movies, ends with a myriad of unexpected encounters, locations, and challenges that will bring new perspective to their friendship and their futures. The screenplay’s approach to this material is fairly rote, and there’s little flair or surprise to be had, but fine comic energy from Rodriguez, Snow, and Wise assists with Robinson’s well-mounted character development. Someone Great is a consistently charming experience. Even when the film can’t hold its plotting to high standards, the cast can sell the silliest moments with the same aplomb as the more complex latticework of the non-linear flashbacks, catching onto the nuances of the different life stages their characters have already gone through together (it’s explained that they’ve been friends since college and are around 30 now).
But this does pose the problem of a certain juxtaposition between the quality of the lead performances and the sheer forgetfulness of the script. With so much talent onscreen and such good intentions on the page, the feeling that so many scenes seem to pass, scattershot, with little memorability or relation to what came before or after, cuts a little too deep to ignore. The film moves briskly, never overstaying its welcome, but that might be more attributable to a lack of cohesion or supporting material between plot points than anything else. Scenes come, one after another, in an uncertain order – combining this with Robinson’s proclivity for flashbacks, and Someone Great doesn’t have act breaks as much as it has a runtime that eventually has to run out. It’s a disappointing effect, one which dulls the otherwise much-needed joys of this otherwise ebullient-yet-thoughtful movie about robust friendship. There’s never a point where it becomes overwhelming or takes away from how good Rodriguez, Snow, and Wise are together, but it does relegate the movie to a middle ground that it can never quite escape.
So we’re left with a perfectly decent movie, though one that is worth its fair share of consideration because of how good its best qualities are, and how successful the talent is in creating interesting characters. Netflix’s abundance of such films, seen as passable on balance, threatens to let Someone Great sink into an endless sea of back-catalog stuff only accessible through a search for their generic titles. Yet I stress that there’s more here than it may seem at first glance. Though her scripting is lackluster, Robinson demonstrates a clear gift as a filmmaker in immersing us into a clear-eyed backstory from minute one, and it’s only from that holding point that our lead trio can do the great work that they do. We understand the characters’ bonds, we believe in them, and though the film is light in tone and weak in structure, we can track their growth. Attempts at later dramatic heft make it clear that the movie didn’t intend to feel as disheveled as it does, but by the time everything is through, it gets a lot closer to its goals at every turn than we could have ever suspected.