Recently I watched Someone Great and Wine Country on Netflix. I also saw Booksmart at the cinema.
WG featured the likes of Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. Big names. Fantastic women. Excellent comediennes. And yet – I felt that the film didn’t quite reach its potential. Sure, there were funny bits – of course there were. Someone falls off a piano mid-serenade, the ladies go drunken-rambling around the vineyards and Rudolph, in classic style, wasn’t short of witty remarks. But for me? Maybe it was the way they handled the gene issue. Or the rolling-down-a-hill part. Or the slapstick jokes.
Someone Great, on the other hand, bowled me over. It’s directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson and stars the glorious Britanny Snow (Pitch Perfect), Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin), DeWanda Wise (She’s Gotta Have It) and LaKeith Stanfield (Get Out). It’s about three friends who embark on a final New York City adventure together before one of them moves cross-country (and after a couple of break-ups). You could say it’s a romantic comedy. But not in the conventional sense. While their romances might be a central focus of this story line – it is in no way the end goal. And it’s so refreshing. It is, instead, a look at the importance of friendships, how the past can both hurt and heal you and the nervous excitement you get when your life is about to change.
It might seem like this is a movie about twenty-somethings roaming the streets of a big city. (They were definitely roaming the streets at points). But these girls are thirty. Or edging towards it. So for them, it’s as much about having fun in bars as it is about acknowledging the excitement of going to the Farmers’ Market with someone you love in the morning.
I’ve never watched Gina Rodriguez on the screen. Or DeWanda Wise. Jane the Virgin and She’s Gotta Have It have never been on my radar of things to look out for on Netflix. But I love Brittany Snow – she’s great in Pitch Perfect – never afraid to take the mickey out of herself. And LaKeith Stanfield was, as ever, brilliant. What’s so endearing is how god-damn relatable the characters are. Like when his character and Jenny first say ‘I love you’ to each other while they’re ordering a takeaway on a Friday night. Or when it goes wrong and one of them jumps in the shower to escape the awkwardness. Or perhaps, when all’s said and done, post-break up, it’s that moment when they see each other on a night out. There’s no standard ‘I want you back’ moment or oh-look-he’s-kissing-another-girl scene that we’ve seen on our screens so many times. It is what it is. And they both have to move on.
Then come the friendships. The hilarious scene when they meet a ‘dealer’ mililng about in his Big (the Tom Hanks film) -like apartment. The times when they tease each other for being too straight-laced, only one of them is actually being ravished by a secret lover. Or maybe it’s the hiding from ex-boyfriends’ friends and trying to pretend they weren’t just cowering by a random front door.
Or simply the fact that they’ll share anything with each other.
We also need to talk about Booksmart, directed by the brilliant actress-turned-filmmaker Olivia Wilde – who many of you would recognise as Alex from The OC. Apparently Wilde has been very vocal on social media to try and increase traffic to the cinema herself. There ain’t no I’m-the-director-and-I’m-leaving-it-to-my-PR-team-because-I’m-too-big-for-that vibes. It’s not studio made. It’s not created by a man. And so Wilde has admitted that she needs all the help she can get. Which I find both frustrating and refreshing. Frustrating that this is the case and refreshing that the hierarchy of a film production team doesn’t mean anything unless the film is making good.
There were bits in Booksmart that I wasn’t overly keen on (the ‘doll’ scene and a couple of conversations that went on too long), but I really enjoyed the movie as a whole and will encourage all of my friends to see it. The friendship between the two main girls is pretty much how I interact with my pals to this day. And the film breaks down so many sterotypes that you might expect from a coming-of-age / high school American production:
Things are a lot more nuanced. You’re reminded that people can be a badass and smart at the same time. And humour makes everything better. So thank you to Olivia Wilde for creating these moments that will make other students (and anyone else) feel less alone – or more empowered – or comforted.
What should you be watching?
Eighth Grade – (If you can catch it still) In all good cinemas
The Late Show – In all good cinemas
Years and Years – BBC One (If you can cope with the stress)
What If – Netflix
Chernobyl – Sky Atlantic (My boyfriend said it’s the best television show he’s ever seen)
Big Little Lies – Sky Atlantic
Killing Eve Season 2 – BBC One
Love Island – ITV Be (I’m just being honest but I certainly don’t recommend it if you want to keep living your life…)