There simply aren’t enough modern romantic comedies that cherish the merits of female friendship in the aftermath of a romantic breakup. There are even fewer that feel like a personal, lived-in experience. Female-driven raunchcoms (like “Girls Trip”) have explored this territory to a certain extent, though many stop short of delivering genuine poignancy (like “Rough Night”).
That’s where writer-director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson’s “Someone Great” helps fill an aching void. This fun, feminist-friendly feature, about a woman devastated by the disintegration of her long-term romance and the two best friends who rally around her for one final night of frivolity, taps into that collective yearning for more. It gifts us with the next big “Girls Night In” event, for which Netflix has cornered the market.
Jenny (Gina Rodriguez) and Nate (Lakeith Stanfield) had a bright future together. However, nine years time and different career trajectories — hers as a music critic and his as community organizer — have irreversibly strained the perfect couple’s relationship. What once were cozy, promising days together have, seemingly overnight, turned into sobering single-dom. As Jenny pores over their intertwined digital footprint, the texts, emails, playlists, and pictures remind her of what they once had, spinning her out into a stupor of sadness. Seemingly, the only positive distraction is an epic concert: the Neon Classic.
Determined to party her way through the pain before she leaves for her dream job in San Francisco, Jenny proposes to her longtime pals, Blair (Brittany Snow) and Erin (DeWanda Wise), that they make the most of the concert that evening. This last hurrah in New York City also holds the potential of a reunion with Nate. Jenny demands they drop their work plans to help her heal by shopping, drinking booze, smoking weed (as one does in a movie bender), and securing tickets to the music showcase. But as she quickly learns, there’s no amount of self-medicating that will prevent the memories from flooding back whenever a song or location comes into focus.
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Robinson deftly juggles the three women’s storylines: While Jenny’s tribulations take the pole position, Blair and Erin have also come to a similar crossroads in their lives. PR strategist Blair would love to dump her annoying boyfriend Will (Alex Moffat), but her guilty conscience over an illicit affair with Matt (Peter Vack) has kept her imprisoned in the couple. On the opposite end of the spectrum, successful real estate agent Erin is running from commitment in her solely sexual relationship with boutique owner Leah (Rebecca Naomi Jones), because she’s not eager to be party to the hurt and anguish romance can bring.
Robinson has crafted likable, realistic characters you want to hang out with, and who remind you of the friends you currently aren’t. Rodriguez, Snow, and Wise share a special, tangible bond that convinces that they’re more than just “movie friends” — pals paired together for the sake of cinematic contrivance. Their banter is naturally engaging, reinforcing their representation as empowered women. From the singalong set to Selena’s “Dreaming of You” in the bodega to the clothing montage of the gals cutting loose to Lil’ Kim’s “The Jump Off,” Robinson’s jovial take on the genre’s staple movie moments keeps character-driven action primarily about women uniting together. Personal flourishes, like Rodriguez occasionally slipping into Spanish, give Jenny a sense of cultural specificity. But it’s Wise who’s this film’s MVP, wittily delivering many hilarious, quotable one-liners with effervescence and charm.
Collaborating to give the film a unique aesthetic, Robinson and DP Autum Eakin use saturated neon light and a subtly diffuse filter to suggest Jenny’s romanticized memories of the happy, sad, and frustrating times with Nate, to heartrending effect. Instead of a sharp, jarring contrast between that and Jenny’s reality, there’s a fluid transition and understated commentary on the character’s vision of herself and the fractures in her relationship coming into better focus.
The film’s title serves as a twist on the genre’s expected formula of girl gets boy, girl loses boy, girl gets boy back. The titular “someone great” isn’t referring to the guy Jenny wants back in her life, but rather who she’s striving to be in this world. It’s a lesson that services the head and heart in equal measure, hitting home the poignant profundity of this portrait, in which Robinson captures the struggle to maintain autonomy in a time of upheaval with staggering insight and empathy.