A Winning Trio Leads Refreshing Rom-Com

Somebody I Used to Know is a refreshing take on routine rom-com tropes that, while suffering from a slow start, makes for a rewarding journey.

The basic set-up of Dave Franco’s newest film as a director, Somebody I Used to Know, is a familiar one. Anyone who has dipped their toes into the romantic comedy genre, or even watched a Hallmark flick or two, will immediately track the familiar beats of a professionally driven woman returning to her hometown and reuniting with her ex — the one that got away. However, Somebody I Used to Know isn’t quite a rom-com, though romance is in the air and there is plenty of awkward humor. Instead, Franco, who also wrote the script alongside leading lady Alison Brie, has created something that is more subversive than traditional. Somebody I Used to Know is a refreshing take on routine rom-com tropes that, while suffering from a slow start, makes for a rewarding journey.


Aspiring documentarian Ally (Brie) is dealt a blow when the reality baking show she produces is abruptly canceled by the network. Stuck facing an intense creative block as she ponders her next move, Ally opts to return to the hometown she fled long ago to visit her mother (Julie Hagerty). Within hours of her arrival, Ally reconnects with her charming ex Sean (Jay Ellis), who gets her to open up with a whirlwind night of free-spirited antics. Ally is excited at the prospect of trying again with Sean, but her blossoming dreams are brought to a screeching halt when she learns that not only is Sean engaged, but she has inadvertently stumbled into his wedding weekend. Ally initially approaches the weekend with the intention of winning Sean back, but as she gets to know his fiancée, Cassidy (Kiersey Clemons), she wonders if it’s really Sean she needs, or the person she used to be.

Related: Alison Brie Reunites With Her Ex In Somebody I Used to Know Trailer

Kiersey Clemons and Alison Brie in Somebody I Used to Know
Kiersey Clemons and Alison Brie in Somebody I Used to Know

Somebody I Used to Know gets off to a slow start as Franco establishes Ally’s stuck-in-a-rut situation. There are a couple of instances of sharp cringe comedy early on, such as an unfortunate incident involving Ally, her cat, and said cat’s bodily fluids on an airplane. The film settles into an easy rhythm upon Ally’s return home, and Brie and Ellis have a genuine chemistry that makes Ally and Sean’s initial reunion sweet to watch. However, it isn’t until Cassidy enters the picture that Somebody I Used to Know becomes a more compelling watch. Ally is invited to the wedding festivities by Sean’s mother Joanne (Olga Merediz), and while Cassidy is politely genial about her presence, it’s clear the bride-to-be isn’t ignorant of Ally’s intentions. Somebody I Used to Know sets itself up to track Ally’s attempts to worm her way back into Sean’s heart — which might not be that difficult of a feat — but it takes a more unique turn when Cassidy and Ally sit down with each other and talk.

Whereas other rom-coms or romantic dramas might keep the Cassidy figure more obscured so the audience can firmly root for the leading lady, Franco and Brie’s script allows Clemons’ character to become her own fully-formed woman. This changes up the dynamics of Somebody I Used to Know considerably as Ally finds herself spending even more time with Cassidy than Sean. The movie doesn’t entirely avoid predictability; one of Ally’s more desperate attempts to split the couple can be easily guessed after a casual comment about Cassidy’s parents. However, what makes the story so refreshing is how it treats both Ally and Cassidy, and how it doges certain conventional tropes. There’s an entire sub-genre of rom-coms where a hardworking woman from the city returns home and reconnects with an old flame while realizing her career is actually preventing her true happiness. Ally’s arc, while briefly edging up against that worn path, doesn’t quite go that way, instead giving the character far more nuance.

Jay Ellis and Alison Brie in Somebody I Used to Know
Jay Ellis and Alison Brie in Somebody I Used to Know

Somebody I Used to Know is also greatly aided by its winning trio. In another performer’s hands, Ally could be an endlessly frustrating character who doesn’t elicit much sympathy. With Brie, though, she becomes someone easy to invest in despite all her shortcomings. There’s a certain charm to her actions that, even when perhaps wishing she’ll fail, keeps her from veering into outright catty territory. Ellis’ Sean might not do as much onscreen soul-searching as the women, leaving his character a bit under-served, but the Top Gun: Maverick actor imbues the confused groom-to-be with warmth and charisma. Finally, Clemons absolutely shines as Cassidy, a character with more agency and depth than her position within the narrative might suggest. Even beyond these three, Somebody I Used to Know is filled with solid supporting players, especially Brie’s fellow Community alum Danny Pudi as Sean’s best friend.

While perhaps not quite funny enough to really deserve the “com” aspect of the rom-com designation, Somebody I Used to Know is a worthy addition to the growing canon of romantic streaming movies. Its awareness of frustrating, often-used tropes allows it to forge its own path with a slew of realistic characters. Those looking for the typical swoon-worthy narrative might be left a bit cold by the swerves the plot takes, but there is still plenty to love here.

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Somebody I Used to Know begins streaming Friday, February 10 on Prime Video. It is 106 minutes long and rated R for sexual content, graphic nudity, language throughout and brief drug use.

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