‘Somebody I Used to Know’ Is a Rom-Com About Falling In Love With Yourself
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“Somebody I Used to Know” is being advertised as a rom-com, and to be fair, it has all the hallmarks of a classic romantic comedy. The film follows Ally (Alison Brie), an ambitious young woman who returns to her small hometown after her reality TV baking show is cancelled (RIP “Dessert Island All Stars”) and finds herself falling for her ex Sean (Jay Ellis) after they run into each other on her first day back. When she learns that Sean is getting married in a few days, she plans to sabotage the wedding and win him back, triumphing over his controlling fiancée Cassidy (Kiersey Clemons) who has taken an immediate dislike to Ally.
We’ve seen versions of this movie before — but we haven’t seen this movie, because “Somebody I Used to Know” follows these cliché storylines to their climax and then flips them, finally revealing itself as a rom-com where the main character’s one true love is actually themselves.
At the start of the movie, Ally is a high-powered producer on a reality TV series. During an interview with the season winner, she stares him down until he cries over his recent divorce. After work, she asks the cameraman if he wants to hook up, but he turns her down. She spends the night at home, alone, crying into her cat. In six minutes, the movie has told us everything we need to know about Ally: she’s obsessed with her job, lonely, and not a very nice person.
Sparks immediately fly when she runs into Sean, and they spend the night revisiting their favourite bars and restaurants in their small alpine hometown. They literally stay up until the sunrise and admit they both think about what things would be like if they hadn’t broken up. It’s romantic as hell and, if this were any other rom-com, Sean would be the solution to all of Ally’s problems.
But this isn’t any other rom-com, and Sean isn’t the solution to any of Ally’s problems. It takes her a while to realise, but she eventually realises that winning back Sean won’t solve anything. She even realises that Cassidy is not her enemy.
Dave Franco, who directed “Somebody I Used to Know” and co-wrote the script with Alison Brie, told Moviefone that the story came to him when he and Brie were exploring his hometown. The script was inspired by the familiar feeling of reconnecting with your roots and remembering the hopes and dreams you had when you lived there, especially compared to how they turned out. And truly, “Somebody I Used to Know” is about what happens when you realise you’ve been running on autopilot. It’s about the heart-dropping moment when you look at your life and realise you don’t even like the things you’ve built it around. Ally had dreams of being a documentary filmmaker and tells everyone she’s happy making reality TV but for the first time in a long time, she has the space from her job to question whether it’s still enough for her. And the answer is no.
“I spent so long giving everything to this one thing,” she tells her mum later in the movie. “I made my choices, and this is who I am now. It’s just, maybe I don’t like who I am.”
It takes her being fired and rejected, but she eventually has the confidence to turn Sean down and make the naturist (people who practise nudity in public) documentary she’s always wanted to make but was never allowed to by the networks. The first and last scenes of the movie are direct parallels: in the first, she’s marching across studio sets in a power suit doing her best walk and talk with her assistant, and in the last, she’s sitting in a plastic chair, completely naked, talking openly with her interview subject about the power of finally knowing who you really are. It’s easy to assume that Sean is the somebody in “Somebody I Used to Know”, but actually it’s Ally.
“Somebody I Used to Know” is a rom-com in that there’s romance, comedy, and some hilarious moments from stars Alison Brie, Danny Pudi, Haley Joel Osment, and Amy Sedaris — but forget Ally and Sean, or Sean and Cassidy, or even briefly Ally and Cassidy. This is a movie about loving yourself, and the bliss, freedom, and peace that comes with it.