In Netflix’s romantic comedy Someone Great, music writer Jenny (Gina Rodriguez) struggles in the wake of a breakup from her longtime boyfriend (LaKeith Stanfield). She spends her last days as a New York City resident grieving both losses in the company of her two best friends from college, Erin and Blair (DeWanda Wise and Brittany Snow).
Writer-director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson’s debut feature is told as a day in the life spliced with flashbacks that detail the course of Jenny and Nate’s relationship. It’s very funny and offers up plenty of heartwarming fodder for the sentimental among us.
The film makes effective use of one-off characters by casting seasoned actors like Rosario Dawson and RuPaul Charles — as well as newcomers Michelle Buteau and Jaboukie Young-White — in scenes that they can and do fully own. These one-and-done scenes in particular give the film a strong comedic through-line that mostly works.
Among the leads, Wise in particular is a standout, showing us that she’s just as adept with lighter fare as she is with roles that require heavier lifting. And Stanfield — who played a similar character in 2017’s The Incredible Jessica James starring Jessica Williams, also a Netflix original — has carved out a niche as the notorious ex who sends his girlfriends on a movie’s worth of self-recovery.
Less concerned with all the familiar rom-com plot points, Someone Great feels like a series of well-crafted sketches stitched together into a film that’s decidedly more about reveling in the world of the characters than twists and turns.
Indeed, very early we are told through a montage of online messages exchanged — between Jenny and Nate and between Jenny and her besties — what the movie’s main trajectory will be. Robinson seems to be saying upfront to her audience that the journey is the plot here. And it is pretty fun (and funny) watching Rodriguez, Wise and Snow do millennial girl squad cosplay for the entirety of the movie, even if the story itself doesn’t always feel well thought-out. Not to mention that the film is heavy on the kind of syrupy sentimentality that with lesser actors would be agitating. Case in point: Jenny, Erin and Blair say “I love you” to each other almost as much as they say hello in this movie.
Being single is something to be celebrated in Someone Great, making it a noticeable departure from what we’ve come to expect from romantic comedies. Instead of dangling the carrot of the female lead getting the guy at the end, the film shows us that what matters most is Jenny landing her dream job and taking on the risk of moving to a new city, as well as a sustaining bond with her platonic soulmates. But as is typically the case in traditional rom-coms, women protagonists are often punished in some way for choosing career ambitions over romance.
That we see two women of color (Wise’s commitment-phobic Erin and her girlfriend Leah, played by a delightful Rebecca Naomi Jones), in a rom-com fall in love and be happy is unremarkable in today’s zeitgeist, but still worth noting as a rare occurrence onscreen. There’s a line in one of their scenes about “queer theory” that is kind of perfect, too.
Some movies are not meant to be game changers; they are meant to be mirrors that reflect an audience that wants and deserves to be seen. “Representation” may be a politically charged word in Hollywood, but it’s also just another way of talking plainly about reaching new audiences. And Robinson clearly understands that there is an audience that craves seeing Jenny and her friends “living their best lives” in New York City. Perhaps that’s the movie’s biggest feat: It’s an unapologetic celebration of platonic love and friendship among women.
Cast: Gina Rodriguez, DeWanda Wise, Brittany Snow, LaKeith Stanfield, Peter Vack, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Jaboukie Young-White, Michelle Buteau, RuPaul Charles, Rosario Dawson
Writer-director: Jennifer Kaytin Robinson
Producers: Anthony Bregman, Peter Cron, Paul Feig, Emily Gipson, Jessie Henderson, Gina Rodriguez
Executive producers: Dan Magnante, Peter Pastorelli, Jennifer Kaytin Robinson
Director of photography: Autumn Eakin
Production designer: Lisa Myers
Editors: Mollie Goldstein, Jeffrey Wolf
Costume designer: Stacey Battat
Casting: Rori Bergman, Jeanne McCarthy, Leslie Woo
Premieres: Friday, April 19 (Netflix)