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Since last summer, my Netflix algorithm has been hi-jacked by a genre assumed dead by many: the romcom. Between Set it Up, The Kissing Booth, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and recently The Perfect Date, users of the streaming service have all been totally spoiled for choice. These movies are hugely successful. Netflix CCO, Ted Sarandos claimed that The Kissing Booth was one of the most watched films by users in the USA and possibly the world. The trend doesn’t seem to be stopping in 2019, albeit with a little more edge. Director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson’s Someone Great is the latest addition to this popular category. The Indie flick ventures into less comfortable waters—a break up.
The film starts on the eve of the couple’s split. Jenny (Gina Rodriguez, Jane the Virgin) and Nate (LaKeith Stanfield, Sorry to Bother You) have put the final nail in the coffin after nine amazing years. Why? Jenny got a dream job offer in San Francisco (Rolling Stone—the female journalist in the romcom strikes again) and Nate’s not ready to leave New York. Long distance wasn’t an option. Even with Facetime. D-day is approaching and time is of the essence. With bourbon in hand and Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” blaring, Jenny wants to go out with a bang. She rounds up her girls Blair (Brittany Snow) and Erin (DeWanda Wise) for one last adventure.
The couple’s story is told through sensory flashbacks. Their song, the touch of a diet coke bottle and a beloved spot in Washington State Park are just a few of the moments that bring painful memories. It’s definitely a cheesy approach but it allows for a fluid timeline and emotional buildup. A montage of the pair’s correspondence by text emphasises the steady decline of a love that seemed unstoppable. The final fading of three grey ‘typing’ dots highlights that loss of connection. You feel so sad for Jenny. But not for long. Her wallowing winds up in her scoring free molly from the coolest dealer in New York: Hype (RuPaul). For a movie about a break up, men play a subliminal role. There’s no denying that the real story here is about two of the most relatable struggles: adulting and female friendship. Robinson’s romantic image of the music journalist in New York is nothing new, however.
The main issue I have with this film is the ease in which it portrays the life of a young woman in one of the most career competitive cities in the world. Jenny’s a hugely successful music journalist. Her friend works in a trendy marketing company. They all live in cute apartments. Their style is effortless and their lives enviable. Moving to San Francisco to work in the world’s most renowned music magazine should be no bother to Jenny at the rate things are going. Honestly, her breakup seems like a small price to pay for the success she has enjoyed and will continue to. In this regard, Robinson is not so successful in moving beyond the common tropes of the genre. There’s no struggle for Jenny and no exploration of the hustling element of making a name for yourself in the world of music journalism.
The dynamic of the trio is ultimately what saves this film from being mediocre. Rodriguez (who also stars in Netflix properties Annihilation and Carmen Sandiego) is as likeable as ever in her role. She flitters from hysteria to euphoria like an on and off switch without being annoying. She captures the fragility of the ‘dumped’ so perfectly. I found myself both cringing and admiring the amount of alcohol she was able to consume over the course of a day.
Jenny’s friends are an ideal support group. The neurotic Blair is complimented by the polar opposite chill Erin. Together, the girls are a comical trio and their rapport feels very natural. It’s tough love. They’re not adversed to calling each other out. Blair’s repulsion to her needy boyfriend and Erin’s inability to commit are explored to the same extent as Jenny’s heartbreak. The pair aren’t sidelined by Jenny, unlike the outrageous trio that dared to call themselves a girl gang in Mamma Mia 2 (I’m still not over the selfishness of young Donna Sheridan. You can’t claim all the hot guys. That’s not how girl code works).
Overall, this is a perfectly pleasant film to watch. It’s a worthwhile addition to Netflix’s revival of the romcom genre. And it’s okay that it’s not overly different to movies we’ve already seen. To put it in Mindy Kaling’s words from her biography Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me: “I simply regard romantic comedies as a subgenre of sci-fi, in which the world created therein has different rules than my regular human world.”
The world Robinson has created is both relatable and alien. But it’s quite entertaining. Watch Someone Great if you want to see a “hopeful” breakup film.