The Harvard Crimson recently attended roundtable discussions with Dave Franco, Alison Brie, and Jay Ellis to discuss their upcoming film “Somebody I Used to Know.” Just in time for Valentine’s Day, real-life couple and co-writers Alison Brie and Dave Franco set out to create a love story that includes the elements everyone appreciates about a romantic comedy while also being “surprising and unique,” according to Franco, who is also the director.
In the film, type-a workaholic Ally (Brie) is reeling from the cancellation of “Dessert Island,” the reality show she spent three years of her life working on non-stop. So she packs up and returns to her small hometown in Washington State, where she soon runs into Sean (Ellis), her ex-boyfriend. The two instantly reconnect and Ally rethinks her previous decision to break up and move to Los Angeles to pursue her career goals. This makes it all the more surprising for her to learn that Sean is now engaged to the younger, free-spirited Cassidy (Kiersey Clemons).
Following Franco’s directorial debut “The Rental” in 2020, which Brie also starred in, the couple continued to search for ways to collaborate on a project again. “In terms of why it works, we just have similar sensibilities and we have the same sense of humor,” Franco said. According to Franco, they set out to write a romantic comedy because it is a genre they both love. They sought to incorporate nostalgic elements from their favorite films of the ’80s and ’90s, Franco said, “movies like ‘Pretty Woman,’ ‘When Harry Met Sally,’ ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding,’ ‘Sleepless in Seattle.’”
The premise might sound like a typical Hallmark movie, but Franco and Brie purposefully deviate from many rom-com tropes as the story unfolds. “We just wanted to make something a little more complicated and a little messier,” Franco said. In order to make the story modern and relatable, all three main characters find themselves wrestling with balancing careers and personal desires.
Ellis, who is coming off of projects such as “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Insecure,” said he is really drawn to characters such as these. “We’re different and have different qualities but there’s something about them and their experiences that I ultimately learn from.”
Also, rather than simply portraying two women fighting over a man, one of the most developed relationships in the film is between Ally and Cassidy, the former seeing elements of her past self in the latter. Brie said, “With [Cassidy] we were trying to play with the classic rom-com tropes of the bride and humanize her and also make her really cool and interesting and not a stereotype.” The two even share a moment Brie described as “intimate.”
Additionally, Brie discussed the concept of career anxiety, which can resonate with everyone, including successful actors like Brief herself. “It’s probably not a coincidence that Ally’s show gets canceled after a third season, when she thinks there's gonna be a fourth, and we wrote this right after ‘GLOW’ got canceled, after we had shot the first two episodes of our fourth season,” she said.
The parallels between Brie’s and Allie’s experiences don’t end there. A running theme throughout the movie is nudity, as Ally’s true passion before her reality show was creating a documentary on a nudist colony. This was an early idea in the movie’s creation since Brie and Franco wanted to include some detail referencing Brie’s time at “a very progressive liberal arts school,” Franco said. “She would streak across campus to make her friends laugh.”
Now that the movie’s release is imminent, what’s next for Franco? “I need just a small break from directing just because it’s so all consuming,” he said. “I’m really excited to get back to acting.” Franco also stated his desire to re-enter the horror genre and said that he and Brie are “already developing” other projects. The two certainly remained energetic and excited for the movie’s release, as Franco popped back into the roundtable to kiss his wife goodbye for the day before signing off.
“Somebody I Used to Know” will be available to stream Feb. 10 on Amazon Prime Video.
—Staff writer Margo A. Silliman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org