First published on April 20th on Vocal.media
Gina Rodriguez, the self-proclaimed voice of Latina women, is in another Netflix film. Full disclosure; ever since Rodriguez decided that she was going to throw black women under the bus, to advance the cause of Latina women, I’ve have gone right off of her.
Before she went all ‘yo también’ for Latina women, I was all in on Jane the Virgin, the show that made her a global star. It is a brilliantly written show, with excellent story arcs and outstanding performances from the entire cast, it a show that, deservedly, has garnered many awards over its four-season run.
Now in its fifth and final season, its star, Rodriguez, has been busy working on projects for life after Jane. Whilst in the midst of promoting her various projects and, controversially, during a round table discussion with other prominent actors, Rodriguez has beat the drum for Latina actors at the expense of other women of colour.
That she wanted pay parity, for Latina women, was admirable and would have been widely praised had she not done so at the expense of others. As a black person who is a huge fan of a lot of Latin shows, the comments from Rodriguez were disappointing. I would be lying to say that they do not skew how I now view Rodriguez.
That being said, I thought I would watch Someone Great starring Rodriguez as Jenny Young – not a particularly Latin-American name – LaKeith Stanfield, better known from the brilliant Get Out, as Nate Davis, Brittany Snow – all of the Pitch Perfect movies – as Blair Helms, and DeWanda Wise – lead on another Netflix show, Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It, as Erin Kennedy.
Jenny, Blair and Erin are best friends since college. Nate and Jenny are a couple and love one another passionately. Jenny is an aspiring music journalist and gets offered her dream job across the other side of the country. They had been together nine years when Nate breaks up with her, in part because of the impending move for the job, one week before she is due to move. Jenny is devastated.
She calls her two friends, wanting to have one last big party at the Neon Classic, the same party she met Nate at nine years before. Having shared so much history together, everywhere Jenny goes she sees or hears something that reminds her of Nate.
The Neon Classic is a big deal and to get tickets they have to go through Matt, an old crush of Jenny’s whose rejection in college pushed her towards Nate. Unbeknown to Jenny and Erin, Blair is sleeping with Matt. They think she is with Will, even though it is evident that she is not into him.
Erin is struggling to commit to her lesbian relationship with Cynthia (Michelle Buteau), having been hurt in the past by a girl who was experimenting with her own sexuality. The changes happening in all their lives, as they approach their thirties, has the women panicking about their futures and the impact it will have on their relationships.
Written and directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, Someone Great is the author’s first feature. At thirty-one years old, Robinson is right in the demographic of a generation at the forefront of inclusivity. This is reflected in the film with black, white, Latin, gay – male and female – represented.
Whilst this is a beautiful thing to see, it is not something that is entirely believable, especially in a country so notably divided as America, not only when it comes to race, but also politically. The central story – Jenny’s heartache and eventual acceptance of life’s changes – is a good one and, for the most part, told in an engaging way.
Even given my own reservations and prejudices, there is no denying that Rodriguez is a fantastic actor. At no point did I think ‘that’s Jane!’ Or have thoughts of her misguided utterances. The central relationship between Rodriguez’s Jenny and Stanfield’s Nate is believable at every juncture, making anyone who has lived through the pain of a breakup nod knowingly.
The story arc with Snow’s Blair and Wise’s Erin are not as well rounded, especially Blair’s. I realise being straight and heterosexual is passé and has been reflected ever since the invention of film, but I felt her two scenes with Will and lustful hook up with Matt seemed a bit of a cop-out.
Erin’s confession as to why she found it difficult to voice her true feelings was a great scene. Unfortunately, that is all it was, one scene. The rest of her story was of her bravado and sassiness. The film, as a whole, is okay with outstanding scenes. Robinson, who has done some acting herself, really allows the actors to work and it shows.
Even, as I mentioned earlier, the central friendship does not seem especially realistic, such is the commitment of the actors to the roles, it works perfectly and, in spite of yourself, you believe they are friends. The acting is, across the board, great. Even the minor characters put in good performances.
Something, that I think is a bit of an influence from the MCU films, is a trend to inject comedy into every story. While I do love a laugh as much as the next person, not every story naturally lends itself to comedy. There are amusing moments in this film – Rosario Dawson’s brilliant cameo as Nate’s cousin Hannah stood out – the central premise of the story does not invite comedy.
The elements that have been used as comedy crutches in many cinematic stories – getting messed up, going to a club – seem a little forced in this insistence. There is even a horribly awkward scene with the always flamboyant RuPaul, as a high-end drug supplier/friend called Hype. I can only assume that scene was shoehorned in because somebody knew RuPaul or he knew somebody.
Someone Great is by no means a terrible film and at just over ninety minutes, it is not long either. It just does not commit as much as it should or could have to the central premise. A film that should have been, perhaps, a bittersweet comedy, comes over as Sex in the City for the millennial generation. Watch if you really have nothing else on and like good acting or Gina.