Netflix is having a big 2019 in terms of quantity, but their quality seems to be lacking. They have been good about releasing a new film pretty much every single week. Unfortunately (for us), those films haven’t been well received by critics. It’s hard to not let this continual letdown effect expectations for new and upcoming films. Still, Netflix’s latest original film, Someone Great, is one that I have been looking forward to since its announcement. But after a few disappointments, my excitement began to waver. There are some people involved in the film that lead me to think that it’ll be good, but most of this year Netflix has wasted good casts and ideas on some bad films. Would this be another one of those bad films or would this come together the way that I hoped it would?
The following review will be spoiler free.
Directed By: Jennifer Kaytin Robinson
Written By: Jennifer Kaytin Robinson
Starring: Gina Rodriguez, LaKeith Stanfield, Brittany Snow, DeWanda Wise, Faith Logan, and Rosario Dawson
It’s Jenny’s (Gina Rodriguez) last night in New York with her friends Erin (DeWanda Wise) and Blair (Brittney Snow) before she moves to San Francisco for a new job opportunity. All she wants to do is celebrate with her friends but the weight of a devastating break up hangs over the group. Determine not to let that ruin her night, Jenny and her friends have a night full of adventure, fun and ultimately self-discovery.
I’m sure it’s ok to say this now, it’s 2019 and we’ve all progressed enough: I love romantic comedies! I always have but it was a little secret of mine as a kid and through my teenage years. Some of my favorite movie memories are from this genre. There is something about a good love story that has always resonated with me. That is where my love for the genre comes from. Generally, it’s an unfiltered love. I love the great films and the bad films from the genre. This leads to an excitement for pretty much any new entry into the genre. When you throw in actors as talented as Gina Rodriguez and LaKeith Stanfield into the mix my anticipation just sores. I had this date circled for a long time this year because there can never be too many rom-coms in my opinion.
Someone Great did not disappoint me at all. It is a great experience, in every way that you hope it would be. There is a lot of fun to be had right from the beginning, even though some of the subject matter is quite sad. That is always an indicator of a good storyteller, balancing tones effectively. That is done incredibly well here. Its breezy runtime (92 minutes) ensures that it never drags and the soundtrack is outstanding! I have a rule, if a film starts with Outkast and UGK, then I have to like it. Someone Great follows my ridiculous rule and so many other requirements.
This film isn’t merely good, though. It has everything going for it. The writing is sharp and quite good. Its themes are authentic and genuine. The acting is outstanding throughout this film, especially from its lead, Gina Rodriguez. Most importantly it is a fun experience. These characters are a good hang. The relationships are ones that you want to have. Romantic comedies make one average day in New York look just as magical as anything Disney produces. The day these women have is fun (and sad and stressful, but mostly fun). That makes for a good time and that is the best thing I can say about Someone Great, I had such a good time watching it.
Great New Writer/Director
Jennifer Kaytin Robinson is the lone writer/director for Someone Great. She doesn’t have a lot of credits to her name, in any capacity. And she knocked her feature film debut out of the park! Oftentimes first-time directors (or even just young ones) overstuff their films, Robinson doesn’t have that problem. She keeps the story lean, which allows her to spend more time in some very important areas that are often forgotten about in this genre.
Rarely do the friends get background and a character arc in a romantic comedy. Robinson gives these characters that and the whole film is better for it. There was a lot of little decisions like that one that makes Someone Great feel like it was directed by a veteran. Love and loss are at the center of this story. Robinson chooses to let us feel the loss that Jenny goes through, instead of simply showing us. Intermittent flashbacks to her relationship with Nate (LaKeith Stanfield), are expertly done. These beautiful little mini stories provide so much to the viewer. Watching them fall in love and then be in love is incredible. I was hooked from almost the beginning. Then, when Robinson takes that away I was devastated along with Jenny. The impact is so great because the impact is so relatable, we have all felt the way every single person in this film felt. Creating that connection is a masterstroke of storytelling.
Here is another great side effect of Robinson’s great storytelling. I love the dynamic of this friend group! At first it seems pretty generic (like the rest of the setup of Someone Great) but that quickly turns on its head. It is the small filmmaking decisions that do that. Erin calls off of work and they go to Blair’s job to get her out early. Both women are successful and have things going on outside of the main character. More importantly, I just like being with this group of friends. There is genuine love there. It reminds me of my own friend group and they will hold me down in the worst of times. They’re plenty playful but also take the time to have serious moments with each other. Most of the friendship tropes from this genre are broken and that is so nice to see. In a story that appears to be about romance and losing that love, it’s really about the beauty of good friendship.
Beautiful Love Story
The central love story in Someone Great reminded me a lot of a small indie film I adore, Like Crazy. The similarities extend only to the relationship itself, as the former is a comedy and the latter is most certainly not. But I was reminded of one of my favorite films because the love the two characters share is in one part so passionate and in another so beautifully tragic. Jenny and Nate are a great couple. The time we spend with them as the relationship grows is incredible. Their little moments and inside jokes are both relatable and cute. Immediately, you fall in love with them, as a couple. This makes their break up all the more painful when it happens. Seeing something so beautiful fall apart is tough to watch, especially if the couple at the core of it is so good together. Someone Great works for a lot of reasons but it is this romance that makes it so impactful.
Nothing New and That’s Ok
Jennifer Kaytin Robinson does a great job storytelling but she also doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Most of Someone Great is unoriginal. The setup, follow through and everything in between, I’ve seen before. The only real difference is that it has been updated for a modern generation (there are plenty of pop culture references to remind you of that). Even still, I had no problem with this. Sometimes telling a good story is better than telling a new one. Robinson did just that. She took a story (or a few stories) that have already been told and she provided her spin. It works so well here because it is told so well.
If you somehow still don’t know who LaKeith Stanfield is then it is time you educate yourself. He is an extraordinary actor and in my opinion, he is on his way to becoming one of the better actors of his generation. He isn’t in Someone Great for all that long but when he is there, he’s amazing. Stanfield has a magnetic charisma that draws your attention all the time. In this film he is the opportunity to play a little, which showcases his off the wall humor.
He does a lot to make his love with Gina Rodriguez work so well. There isn’t much backstory to this character, but he brings him to life in the quiet moments. You can see everything he’s feeling and believing in his eyes. The love that he looks at Jenny with, and the pain he’ trying to hide when he has to end it. They’re both very present on his face and they make those moments land perfectly. Only great actors can make something out of nothing. Stanfield isn’t given much with this character, but he does so much with it, and that makes the film that much better.
Gina Rodriguez is Destined for Stardom
I’m not all that familiar with Gina Rodriguez. I only really started to see her recently. And every time I have, she’s been quite impressive. Rodriguez is a star. There is no doubt that she has everything a movie star needs to have. She made a bad film (Miss Bala) watchable. She’s charming, funny and endlessly charismatic. All of that was on display in Someone Great. There are strong supporting characters in this film but it’s really a showcase for her, and she nails it.
Surprisingly, this film asks a lot from her. She has to carry it from a narrative aspect, while bringing much of the humor and she has to give the serious moments credibility. She does each flawlessly. Jenny’s break up with Nate is hugely impactful, because both actors are so good. I was especially taken with Rodriguez in this situation because the raw emotion on display is so compelling and gripping. You can’t take your eyes off of her, even though it’s devastating to watch. Juxtapose that with her being drunk halfway through the film and her poop jokes at the end and you have a fascinating performance. Rodriguez can truly do it all. It is so impressive what she does with her performance in this film. While it may not end up in her career achievement montage, I will certainly remember it as the film that showed me the superstar she truly is.
There are a lot of things to watch on Netflix and they are going to continue to bombard us with content. That makes it easy for a film like this to get lost in all of that. Don’t let that happen. Someone Great is an excellent film that is great for all audiences and all occasions. It’s the perfect date night movie because both of you will enjoy it. It works as a fun watch on a lazy weekend and it’s good for the cinephile and causal viewer as well. Someone Great is the best kind of Netflix film. Fun, easy to watch with great performances and storytelling. Hopefully they have more of these coming out because it’s great to have good romantic comedies.
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Oh thank heavens. I’m not a big romcom fan usually but I am a huge Jane The Virgin fan and I didn’t want to ruin Gina Rodriguez by watching a meh movie.
Sounds well worth checking out
I watched it over the weekend. I thought it was good too
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