Somebody I Used to Know, by Albert W. Vogt III

During a recent podcast (Down & Out Reviews, which you can find on Spotify) that I do with my good friend Isaac, we discussed Knock at the Cabin.  As I was not the biggest fan of that movie, our conversation eventually turned to what is coming out this weekend.  Looking at it, the only noteworthy, and I use that term loosely, release was Magic Mike’s Last Dance (2022).  To repeat one of the core principles of The Legionnaire, one thing that will not be reviewed is pornography.  Unfortunately, it is so hard to get away from it these days.  As a practicing Catholic I understand I might have a definition of that subject that is concurrently broad and restrictive.  It is broad in the sense that I would deem much more material as pornographic than would most people, and restrictive in that I try to avoid it when possible.  As such, I would define a film about male strippers to be pornographic, hence why I did not go to the theater.  Yet, take Netflix’s newest offering, Your Place or Mine.  Admittedly, I did not read anything about it, or watch a trailer, but the title is suggestive enough, no?  Instead, I went with Amazon Prime’s latest Somebody I Used to Know.  In hindsight, and with some research, maybe I should have gone with the Netflix option?

Perhaps like you or myself, Ally (Alison Brie), a Hollywood producer, is tired of the drivel reality television for which she is responsible in Somebody I Used to Know.  Yet, she puts her best foot forward and powers through cast interviews for a baking competition show she puts on the air.  After she is done, she is told that it is not being renewed for a fourth season.  This is the beginning of a series of pretty unfortunate events, no Lemony Snicket puns intended.  Her friends from the shoot go out without her, her cat poops and pukes on the plane ride to see her mom Libby (Julie Hagerty), and she walks in on Libby in bed with a strange man as she finally gets to her childhood home in smalltown Pacific Northwest.  Because she has no desire to be around as mom is pleasured, she decides to go to one of her old watering holes for a drink.  As she is finishing her round, in walks Sean (Jay Ellis), her ex-boyfriend.  She makes a sorry attempt at not being seen by him, at first, but he spots her bent form under the table anyway.  They have a brief conversation that turns into food and drinks at the bar, which becomes an all-nighter as they go around to their old haunts.  This lasts into the morning and as he is dropping her off, she kisses him.  When her offer of having things go further inside the house is met with confusion and silence, she awkwardly gets out the car.  While the end of the night might have been abrupt, she cannot shake the feeling that there is something rekindling between them.  Part of this has to do with him admitting that he wonders what it would have been like if she stayed in town.  Another is him liking a picture of her on Instagram from their activities.  Oh, that wily social media.  Whatever the reasons, it later brings her to his doorstep.  Before their conversation can get much further, Sean’s mother Joanne “Jojo” (Olga Merediz), interrupts and is effusive in welcoming Ally.  She is ushered in and soon learns the reason for his hesitation: Sean is engaged to another woman named Cassidy (Kiersey Clemons).  In fact, the whole family is there to celebrate as the wedding is supposed to be in a couple of days.  Before Ally can gracefully extricate herself from this delicate situation, Jojo insists that Ally act as the videographer for the coming nuptials.  She agrees, if only to use it as an excuse to finally leave.  Still, in thinking about it later at her mom’s house, she realizes that ut could be a way of getting close to Sean and potentially winning him back.  As the family goes through the usual rigamarole that coming weddings bring, Ally keeps showing up, much to Sean’s surprise.  Doing so eventually brings Cassidy’s attention.  She is aware of the connection between Ally and Sean, and while initially wary, attempts to play off Ally’s presence matter-of-factly.  The interactions between Ally and Cassidy are fraught with passive-aggression, at first.  Yet, the more Ally is around, the more she begins to know and like Cassidy.  In fact, when they arrive at the venue where the event is to take place, the ex and the future Mrs. Sean (I guess?) make some questionable decisions together, which include streaking across the golf course.  Despite this, when Ally learns that Cassidy’s parents are not coming, and that it is a sore spot between her and Sean, Ally has her assistant find Cassidy’s parents and make sure they get an invite.  They get there just as the rehearsal dinner is finished, and as Ally and Sean are about to have a serious discussion.  Sean is thrilled to meet them and goes to get Cassidy.  She is considerably less than thrilled, blaming Sean for meddling and calling off the wedding.  Ally is about to get everything she thought she wanted until Sean starts in about her career, characterizing it as time wasted.  She gets defensive and realizes that Sean wants people to change to suit his needs, which includes Cassidy giving up her music career.  This brings Ally to Cassidy’s door where Ally admits everything she had done wrong.  The next morning, with Ally’s encouragement, Cassidy forgives Sean, and they get married.  Ally does not stay for it, but instead finally decides to spend time with her mom.  All this has helped Ally to know that she needs to make some changes.  Thus, instead of going through with a potential fourth season of her show, she decides to focus on her own projects.  Regrettably, this means doing a series of interviews at a nudist colony, but I guess one cannot get everything one wants, huh?

There are some ways in which I liked Somebody I Used to Know, and I will get into them in a moment.  There are also a few technical things that bear brief mentions.  The first is that Haley Joel Osment is in this movie playing Jeremy, Sean’s brother.  If you happen to look up these two actors and are confused, it is because Sean is adopted.  Indeed, not knowing his birth parents is a major reason why he has issues with Cassidy not inviting hers to come to the wedding.  Anyway, if you are wondering what ever happened to Haley Joel Osment, here he is!  He is a lunatic in this movie, but also has a wife and two kids.  I am sure there is something Catholic to say there, but I will mush on without comment.  The other technical aspect is a more serious one, and it points to a small problem in editing.  When Ally arrives, it looks to be late Fall.  What few leaves there are on the mostly bare trees are the seasonally appropriate color.  Yet, a few days later it looks like summer, and the wedding party is going tubing on a nearby river.  Such things can be easily fixed, and when they are wrong they stand out to me.

Excuse me while I crack my Catholic knuckles before continuing this review of Somebody I Used to Know.  The title and promotional material, and several points in the film, might suggest that the title is referring to Sean.  Instead, I would say that he is the trigger for Ally to find herself, to remember who she really is.  When she gets to her hometown and spends time with Sean, shortly thereafter she is ready to throw away her career and move back to town.  This is because she is not being fulfilled with what she is doing, and Sean reminds her of how far away from where she started that she had come.  There is a lot said in the movie about finding your calling and sticking to your path.  Of course, the sad part of the film is that they are not talking about this in a religious context, much less a Catholic one.  As I have said in other reviews, the Church teaches that God wants from each of us is something that is unique and can only be discerned by developing a relationship with Him.  Instead, the film makes a lazy metaphor at the end about being a nudist and that being a path for being who you are meant to be.  With apologies to all of you who may be against clothing, but God sees you in a much more unencumbered way.  In a sense, we are all naked before God, not in the literal sense, but insomuch as He knows us far better than we can ever know ourselves.  So, keep your clothes on because God loves you and you do not need to doff them to experience that love.

I would probably still take Somebody I Used to Know over whatever is in Magic Mike’s Last Dance.  You can excuse me of hypocrisy for not seeing the latter.  For all the crude humor in Somebody I Used to Know, it has just enough to make it tolerable.  It is not a lot, but it is something.


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