What is it about romantic comedies that keep us coming back for more? More often than not, the storylines are predictable, the acting surface level and the endings so melodramatic I have to force my rolled eyes back to their rightful place. What pleasure do we get from watching love stories play out time and time again? Why does the swell of Celine Dion’s voice in that “Titanic” scene (you know the one) make me cry every time? Why are Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps, Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks permanently etched in my heart? And why for the life of me can’t I ever get enough?
Netflix’s newest Gina Rodriguez-led romcom, “Someone Great” does not exactly put these questions to rest. The film is the directorial debut of screenwriter Jennifer Kaytin Robinson. When I read that ”Someone Great” was written and directed by a young woman, on top of being executive produced by Ms. Rodriguez herself, I knew that as soon as the premiere rolled around I would be plopped in front of a screen supporting the hell out of this movie. What I did not expect, however, was to be so surprised by and consequently fall so madly in love with it.
As previously mentioned, Hollywood has got this whole romantic comedy genre down to a T. We get a brief intro to our guy and our girl as individuals and then spend a much longer time watching them meet and fall in love only to fight and breakup. This breakup is messy and a little traumatic for us as audience members. We knew it was coming, but after all the time we have invested in this magic couple, a breakup feels a little too close to home. It is usually followed by a makeover montage set to a killer soundtrack which definitely helps, but that true gratification does not return until our dream guy and perfect girl put aside their differences and proclaim their enduring love for one another, no matter the odds.
“Someone Great” follows none of those rules. In fact, the magic couple’s breakup is where this movie begins. Full warning, things may get quite spoiler-y from this point on, so if you have yet to see the film, head to Netflix and then come right on back!
Gina Rodriguez’s boyfriend (turned ex-boyfriend) is played with amicable swagger by Lakeith Stanfield, a popular actor in his own right most known for his roles in Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” and FX’s “Atlanta.” Stanfield’s Nate seems like the perfect foil to Rodriguez’s Jenny. Where she is expressive and energetic, he is laid back and methodical. Where she is ambitious, earning a new leadership position at “Rolling Stone,” he is less assured and content with his job at a local community center.
While they make conscious efforts to celebrate one another’s accomplishments, it is clear early on that they are moving in different directions. To make matters literal, Jenny’s new position requires her to move all the way across the country to California. This added strain on their already fragmented relationship leads to the aforementioned split. Jenny decides to combat her pain the best way she knows how a no holds barred night out in New York City with her two very best friends.
During the course of this one night, the girls dance, smoke, cry, party, have sex, and fall in love. But mostly? They drink...a lot. There were multiple times watching “Someone Great” that I had to just sit back and marvel at the size of the joints rolled and a multitude of shots downed. Through the haze, the women still manage to find themselves at the Neon Classic—the most popular party in town. Last-minute tickets to the event were hard to come by (watch the film and let me know if you got that way too inappropriate joke), but the Neon Classic is only the first stop on their adventurous night. The rest of the hysteria that ensues takes our girls all across town.
Of all the messages about following your dreams and triumphing in the wake of heartbreak that this movie shares, the most glaring one are about the power and purpose of female friendships. Gina Rodriguez triumphantly leads the cast of brazen actors that bring “Someone Great” to life. Alongside her are DeWanda Wise (Erin) and Brittany Snow (Blair) as BFFs in tow. Not only do the women make a drop-dead gorgeous trio, but they are actual representations of what many millennial friendships look like today. The film also stars multicultural and LGBTQ “artivists” like Rosario Dawson, RuPaul, and Jaboukie Young-White.
Wise’s character is homosexual in the film and struggles to confess her feelings to her new girlfriend because of residual burns from a previous relationship. This “fear of commitment” sub-narrative is a common one in romantic comedies but comes across as refreshing now that it is set between two black women. Snow’s character is a proud feminist, according to her throw pillows and coffee mugs, who needs to rattle her own strength in order to break up with an overbearing boyfriend. With the encouragement of her girls, she dumps the guy and quickly rebounds with an ex-flame from her college days. This move could ignorantly be judged as “slutty” by Hollywood’s traditional standards, but because of the female production and creative teams leading the way is just a matter of fact.
Gina’s role as the film’s lead is also one we have to praise! For all intents and purposes, this is a Gina Rodriguez movie. Subtle yet affirming references to her Latinx identity are made throughout the film, including a shirt that repeats “LATINA AF” across the chest and the intermingling of Spanish into Jenny’s drunken dialogue. Hispanic and Latinx communities make up the largest movie-going population in this country. It’s hard to imagine this considering the embarrassing lack of Latinx representation at the head of these films.
If we garner a list of the most popular American romantic comedies of the past two decades, only a handful have Latinas as lead characters (and I would bet that Jennifer Lopez’s name would appear more than once). Because of this, it appears as if Rodriguez used her position as lead actress and executive producer to tell a Latina story in a way that has not been done before. Jenny is proud of who she is; she embraces the sexy and sass that is usually stereotyped to Latin characters as well as the smarts, confidence, and humor that women everywhere possess. She does not shrink her culture, language, identity from anyone, and gets to live a fully fleshed out, albeit flawed, life.
While I know that “Someone Great” won’t be a movie for everyone, I’d argue that there are some takeaways even the biggest critic would agree with.
The past, present, and future are all connected, but you can not stay attached to any of them.
Your best friends are your real soulmates. No matter the distance, they will make it work.
Sometimes, you need to shake up your life. Accept the job. Make the move. Take the risk.
It’s important to open yourself up to all parts of love, not just the easy, pretty, Instagrammable ones.
When in doubt, dance it out!
Maybe, this does nothing for you. Still not phased? I’ll leave you with one of Jenny’s final monologues of the film:
“Do you think I can have one more kiss? I'll find closure on your lips, and then I'll go. Maybe also one more breakfast, one more lunch, and one more dinner. I'll be full and happy and we can part. But in between meals, maybe we can lie in bed one more time. One more prolonged moment where time suspends indefinitely as I rest my head on your chest. My hope is if we add up the "one mores" they will equal a lifetime and I'll never have to get to the part where I let you go. But that's not real, is it? There are no more “one mores.” I met you when everything was new and exciting, and the possibilities of the world seem endless. And they still are...for you, for me, but not for us. Somewhere between then and now, here and there, I guess we didn't just grow apart, we grew up. When something breaks, if the pieces are large enough, you can fix it. Unfortunately, sometimes things don't break, they shatter. But when you let the light in, shattered glass will glitter. And in those moments when the pieces of what we were catch the sun, I'll remember just how beautiful it was. Just how beautiful it'll always be. Because it was US. And we were magic. Forever.”
This movie is chock full of that kind of magic.