Thanks to movies like The Set Up, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and Dumplin’ (along with a rasher of more forgettable titles), Netflix has become the reigning queen of solid studio romcoms. As a genre, the romcom never really died but it certainly fell by the wayside — I challenge you to name a truly memorable one that came out after the early 2000s — and in many ways it feels natural that Netflix has been fostering its resurgence. For one, these movies are cheap to make, and for another, the romcom is one of the few genres that doesn’t balk at women taking the creative wheel.
On the surface, Someone Great falls along this trend, except it’s more of a stealth anti-romcom than a straight one. Written and directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson and produced by star Gina Rodriguez, Someone Great explores the fall-out of the end of Jenny (Rodriguez) and Nate’s (Lakeith Stanfield) nine-year relationship over the course of one night. It also happens to be the last wild night out Jenny has with best friends Erin (DeWanda Wise) and Blair (Brittany Snow) before she moves from New York to San Francisco for a job with Rolling Stone, a job that was the impetus for her break-up in the first place. (Let’s just glide over the fact that these characters’ lifestyles and jobs are completely impractical and unrealistic because this movie certainly does.)
Someone Great’s strengths lay almost entirely with its cast. Rodriguez is, as always, totally magnetic, and her platonic chemistry with Wise and Snow feels completely earned. Many movies — not just rom coms — often try to shove a lifelong friendship into 90 minutes with relentless ribbing and callbacks to youthful indiscretions with varying degrees of success, but the lead trio here never feels anything less than authentic. It certainly helps that their friendship was written by a woman, as this is the first time in a while that I’ve seen all the ups and downs of female friendships accurately portrayed and expressed in dialogue. All the “I love you, buts” are entirely too real, as are the dramatic shifts from serious arguments to blubbery affection.
But there’s the rub — the dialogue. As a comedy, Someone Great is never as funny as its opening scene in which Jenny describes her breakup to a stranger with limited sympathy on the subway, and as a script, it reads like an amalgamated Buzzfeed article. The overabundance of millennial / Gen Z slang instantly dates this day-old movie and makes it a low-key irritating watch from start to finish (and this is coming from a millennial, although an admittedly square one).
Still, if you can tune out the dialogue, Someone Great does offer something interesting on a structural level. While Jenny and Nate’s romance is told in brilliantly lit neon flashbacks — a callback to the Neon Classic music festival that serves as Jenny’s Emerald City — this movie isn’t really about their romance at all. It’s about accepting change and figuring out how to grow with your relationships as you grow up and, if need be, ending them. It’s a tough lesson to learn, especially when a big change is on the horizon. Someone Great smartly hinges on the idea that everyone has to learn this lesson eventually.
Though the film meanders away from this point among Jenny and her friends’ R-rated exploits, it still ends on a happy and rather subversive note. No heteronormative romantic relationship survives the night, but the lone LGBT one does. If that’s not an anti-romcom, then I don’t know what is. That, if anything, is a reason to give this movie a view this Friday night. Someone Great never quite reaches its lofty ambitions, but it’s different enough and thoughtful enough (and Gina Rodriguez enough) to keep you interested along the way.