There have been times, I'm sure, when you've gone out with your friends and you are feeling free and loud and can't stop laughing and screaming inside jokes at one another. And you may be thinking, "Wow, I am on cloud nine, but I wonder if the other people in this diner are getting annoyed?"
Watching Jennifer Kaytin Robinson's debut film Someone Great, a meandering saga where three gals on the cusp of 30 romp around Manhattan and shriek memes at each other, I very much felt like I was sitting in that diner, just trying to eat my tuna fish sandwich in peace.
Jenny (Gina Rodriguez) is a New York-based music journalist madly in love with the very handsome Nate (Lakeith Stanfield), and you've never seen a happier couple. Oh, wait, that scene, where they joke around with Jenny's two besties Erin (DeWanda Wise) and Blair (Brittany Snow), was actually in 2011. After a social media supercut (set to Lorde's "Supercut") we settle on "now," when Jenny lands the job of a lifetime in San Francisco. Nate is staying in New York and decides he doesn't want to do long distance. The romance that would never die is now officially a corpse. But her girls aren't going to let her go without one last crazy night!
Why Rolling Stone Magazine needs to send her to San Francisco (they don't have offices there) and how a journo will have "a staff" in the current media climate are the type of questions you'd never ask if this were a richer story. The film is, as they say, light on plot. The trio must secure tickets to a concert (where Kim and Kanye are supposed to be!) and then they go to that concert. There aren't too many wacky hurdles, just conversations with oddball character actors en route.
There are some laughs, no doubt. Gina Rodriguez is, undeniably, a very gifted entertainer. There's a bit where they all start singing in a bodega that is quite fun. Rodriguez squeezes humor out of the bland writing regularly, but there aren't too many actual jokes. It's all hyperactive situational stuff. The trio don't act like humans, they act like celebrities who are regurgitating meme-speak on Top 40 radio hoping to get a laugh. Someone says "Yassss Kween!" without a shred of irony. It's like the "honest to blog" line from Juno got its own spin-off.
Also annoying: Our troika gobble up an enormous amount of drugs and just snap back into sobriety when the screenplay needs them to. (Because a movie like this has to have a third act where they all dump long-suppressed feelings all over the place.) There are joints the size of wiffle ball bats passed around and somehow everyone stays alert. There are a lot of party scenes, though, so the cinematography is lively and everyone looks fabulous.
Someone Great does have some saving graces. The numerous flashbacks to Jenny and Nate's romantic and serious moments drop all the Instagrammable façades for a moment and are, at least comparatively, tender and real. The two actors have great chemistry and are bathed in a nocturnal New York glow. We are supposed to look upon these earlier sequences in the timeline and empathize with Jenny's nostalgia, but when we cut back to the zaniness of "now" I doubt the impulse to hit the mute button is what the filmmakers were going for.
It's worth pointing out, however, that there are some movies that just aren't made for everyone. Considering Netflix's reach, there is a chance that this will be something of a social media sensation. The animated GIFs are lying in wait. Personally I think there is a galaxy-wide chasm of quality between this year's earlier late night New York sensation, Russian Doll, and this film. But the likes and the retweets may have the final word.
Someone Great premieres Friday, Apr. 19 on Netflix.