'Someone Great' Does Something New With The Romantic Comedy
Netflix's new rom-com is more an examination of the changing attitudes towards relationships, both romantic and platonic, as we grow up.
When it comes to romantic comedies, there's now an awareness of convention. The couple no longer has to end up together, and the relationship between best friends can be vaunted as equally as a romantic one. In her Netflix feature, Someone Great, director and screenwriter Jennifer Kaytin Robinson expands on this by looking at the complacency that comes from long-term relationships, both platonic and sexual. It's an introspection that allows its trio of leading ladies, anchored by Jane the Virgin's Gina Rodriguez, to shine.
In Someone Great, Jenny (Rodriguez), Blair (Brittany Snow), and Erin (DeWanda Wise) are best friends forever who live in New York. For the last eight years, Jenny has also been in a relationship with Nate (Lakeith Stanfield). But when she lands her dream job in San Francisco, Nate breaks up with her. Jenny and her girls decide to hit the town one last time to say farewell to each other — and end up growing up in the process.
What Kaytin and her cast successfully achieve in Someone Great is capturing the anxiety that comes from turning 30. As Jenny lays out, hitting this milestone could very well mean dying alone, and while it's melodramatic and untrue there is a relatable quality to it. Cinema and television, especially, have been built on women being perceived as losing some secret essence once they hit 30. At the same time, it's the age you're supposed to finally have everything figured out.
As evidenced in the film, Jenny and her friends are far from having it all figured out. Erin, who lives with Blaire, can barely keep her room clean; Jenny may have her financial priorities in check but she's terrified of leaving everything she knows behind — and that's the element that hasn't been properly explored in the "turning 30 narratives." Leaving everything you know is often more challenging than just staying where you are.
As Jenny and her friends spend their evening going out and getting high they also reminisce about their life together. For as long as they can remember, they're all each other has known. Jenny's breakup takes on a grander implication; it's not just her relationship that's ending, it's her life.
The idea that complacency breeds stagnation continues in the plotline with Snow's Blair, who's in a relationship with a guy she can't stand. When they finally do break up she's shocked at how apathetic she is to the whole thing. She's assumed her breakup would be a bigger deal. Throughout the film, each woman eventually realizes she's become stuck in a rut, whether it's Jenny coming to terms with the fact that her and Nate's relationship wasn't actually flawless, or Erin coming to grips with the walls she's built to prohibit intimacy. It's easier for them to stay in the situations they're already mired in than to have to confront the unknown. The fact that all this plays out with humor as opposed to terror is a true testament to Robinson's skills as a screenwriter.
It's wonderful to watch these friends navigate messy lives without being judged. Too often in film and TV, female characters are neatly delineated into being perfect or being the screw-up. The women in Someone Great don't fit into either category, and are able to acknowledge their feelings. It's worth questioning whether we'd see women this complicated in a feature even 10 years ago?
Someone Great takes the romantic comedy down new paths. Between this and Netflix's other female-directed feature, Brie Larson's Unicorn Store, it's evident there's a desire to tell stories about women trying to embrace the things they love, no matter who's watching. Where Larson's story is about retaining your love for childish things, Robinson says take those childish things and use them to go out into a bright new future. Each story is great and opens the door for even more unique presentations of women.