Someone I Used to Know is a fun watch, but only a so-so example of the talky subgenre.
Someone I Used to Know
After several years, three childhood friends meet on a summer night at a Los Angeles night club to reminisce and have a nostalgic chat over drinks. Danny has become a wealthy pervert, Luke is now a heartthrob movie star, and Charlie has become jobless, girlfriend-less, and suicidal. The film actually opens with him attempting to slit his wrists, a deceivingly dark note to start on as the rest of the film is largely comedic. The trio meets another trio of strangers at the bar and brings them back to Luke’s place to lounge around and talk.
The rest of the film is just that—a lot of talking. Someone I Used to Know is an ensemble hang-out flick like The Breakfast Club, Dazed and Confused, or even Michel Gondry’s recent The We and the I (see our review.) The keys to success for this kind of movie are the dialog and actors—both need to be stellar. The movie is mostly a comedy, and though the dialog is funny, it’s not laugh-out-loud funny. It’s more chuckle-to-yourself funny. Director Nadine Truong does a solid job in this, her debut feature (although there are some instances of arbitrary abuse of split-screen.) She has a good sense of tone and momentum, as does writer and star West Liang. When the actors speak to each other, it sounds natural and the scenes flow smoothly into one another.
The characters have all lost their way in life and clearly need each other, but it feels like there’s a missed storytelling opportunity here. Their back stories and personalities are varied, unique, and interesting, but these character traits never really rub or clash against each other in interesting ways. Essentially, all they really offer to each other is a shoulder to cry on. In The Breakfast Club, Judd Nelson and Molly Ringwald complete each other because they come from opposite worlds and can teach each other something. Here, the characters simply say “I understand, me too.” The story is heartfelt and cute, but it’s a little disappointing that there wasn’t more conflict of personalities.
Something I found to be very impressive was the casting. Nearly the entire cast is Asian American, and their race is not referred to at all in the movie, save for one line. This is completely refreshing and an important step to making Asian actors respected in Hollywood. The filmmakers do not give a shit that these people are Asian, and their race doesn’t affect the story at all. This is simply an eclectic group of people who coincidentally happen to be Asian. Bravo! Someone I Used to Know is a fun watch, but only a so-so example of the talky subgenre.