Someone Great Review
Someone Great is a Netflix film for this moment, and with authentic performances by Gina Rodriguez and Lakeith Stanfield.
It’s entirely fitting that Jennifer Kaytin Robinson’s directorial debut, the energetic Someone Great, premieres on Netflix the same day that Lizzo’s new album drops, as her music features prominently in the movie and its marketing. But more than that, Someone Great has the same vibrancy, positivity, and emphasis on investing in your own journey that makes Lizzo infectious. A film about friendship and believing in yourself (somewhat) disguised as a romantic comedy, Someone Great is a movie that knows, deep in its core that the best part of the night is getting ready with your friends.
Jenny (Gina Rodriguez) was just dumped the night before by her boyfriend of nine years, Nate (Lakeith Stanfield in a leading man in a role that practically weaponizes his abundant charisma). The immediate catalyst for the breakup is that she got her dream job on the other side of the country, writing for Rolling Stone. She enlists her friends Erin (DeWanda Wise) and Blair (Brittany Snow) to help her say goodbye to New York, and maybe carry out a bit of unfinished business. As Jenny makes her way through her city for the last time, we get to tag along and meet Mama Ru’s warm and regal drug dealer, Jaboukie Young-White’s overly familiar, yet still somehow charming, rich kid, and Rosario Dawson’s affected, name-dropping Vogue editor, who also happens to be Nate’s cousin.
Over the course of roughly one day, each of the three leads goes on their own journey of self-discovery while immediately and repeatedly making their friendships feel lived-in. The film, like the friends, recognize that the path of growing up is different for all of them. One breakup is a heartbreaker, but another is a cause for celebration. While sex and love are certainly involved, Someone Great is more concerned with loving yourself and your friends than romantic love as the ultimate goal. When one relationship moves forward, it’s clear that it’s a huge moment of personal growth and understanding for the character we’re rooting for, which just so happens to involve vulnerability with a partner.
Someone Great knows its audience and its characters well, and a certain demographic will recognize themselves and their friends on screen. Since it’s on Netflix, everyone swears like people do in real life, Erin sports a “Sister Resister” shirt from Wildfang, and there are multiple accessories emblazoned with the word feminist in various women’s apartments. Her blazer has a variety of feminist and trendy enamel pins, and the music is phenomenal, and very of the moment—HAIM, Jessie Reyez, Mitski, Robyn, Aces, Phoebe Bridgers, Twin Shadow, Big Freedia, and an emotionally nuclear use of Frank Ocean’s Moon River, among others.
Someone Great is sex-positive, and views women’s bodies the way we view them when we’re alone, a major benefit of a woman director. Women go braless in commonplace situations, not in a sensationalized way. Jenny spends time alone in her apartment with no pants or bra, because all women know the greatest feeling on the planet is taking those two items off at the end of the day. The women wear unpadded bralets, the ultimate twenty-teens repudiation of the male gaze because who has time for underwire, unless your chest requires it?
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One of the women eventually experiences what other movies would deem to be bad or irresponsible sex. To wit, she fears her friends will chew her out, but instead she’s greeted with cackles, congratulations, and cheers. Satisfying casual sex is a positive part of her journey for the moment, and they know it. And about that casual sex: since it’s a bit of already-regretting-it-while-doing-it, there’s a moment when she says “we shouldn’t,” and he stops, immediately, and says, “If you really don’t want to I’ll stop, obviously.” She tells him to continue and they do. This is the kind of NBD consent you get baked into the script when the writer and executive producer of Sweet/Vicious is your writer and director.
Gina Rodriguez’s Latinidad shines through Jenny in a joyous and natural way. While it might sound funny to call someone’s own heritage natural, plenty of other vehicles have found a way to turn their Latinx stars into walking stereotypes, so seeing a character like Jenny who throws in Spanish (and teaches her boyfriend in flashbacks), wears an amazing Latin AF crop top, and sings Selena in a bodega, is a breath of fresh air. The way that her best bud Erin uses a bit of Spanish with her too reads as the casual sort of closeness that found families so often have.
The toughest challenge for Someone Great is balancing its upbeat, you-got-this-grrl tone with the backdrop its set against: that of a deeply painful breakup. It’s incredibly effective at capturing the feeling of a breakup in a familiar place when, everywhere you go, everything you do, everything you hear, and everyone you see reminds you of the person you were with, the life you made together, and who you used to be when you were together. Where Someone Great struggles is with the dismount. Erin and Blair’s journeys were less prominent but still come to satisfying conclusions. While Jenny’s is the right move on paper, it feels like there was one more story beat, one more push toward realization, one more peek into her inner workings that we needed to bring things to a close.
Someone Great is a refreshing departure from movies that would have Jenny giving up her dream job in the third act, something this movie never even considers. Instead it’s a meditation on what it means to love and to lose, to invest in yourself even when it hurts. It manages to be fun and frivolous yet still grounded in meaningful truth that will feel deeply personal to many young women, or anyone who has had to make a tough choice in love.