‘Someone Great’: Applauding Female Friendship and Queer Relationships
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In almost all of the romantic comedies I’ve watched since childhood, the female protagonist’s friendships always took a backseat to the swoon-worthy love interest. This convention was and still is very frustrating to me. It unfairly subjugates friendships to romantic relationships, sending the message that friendships are comparatively less fulfilling and important.
Thankfully, Netflix’s new film, “Someone Great” breaks this mold and makes the friendship between its three female leads a main feature of its narrative.
In “Someone Great,” Jenny Young (Gina Rodriguez) and her boyfriend Nate (Lakeith Stanfield) have been together for a wonderful and memorable nine years. Everything’s great until Jenny gets hired for the job of her dreams and has to pack up her life in New York City to move to San Francisco. Unwilling to do long distance and sensing their divergent career paths, Nate breaks up with Jenny and she then spirals into a depressive episode. Determined to get over her breakup and leave the Big Apple with a big bang, Jenny enlists the help of her best friends Erin (DeWanda Wise) and Blair (Brittany Snow) for an unforgettable night at the pop-up concert Neon Classic.
The film tracks Jenny, Erin and Blair as they get into various shenanigans trying to find Neon Classic tickets, get drugs and sort through existential crises. Their quest to just get the concert tickets involved Jenny trying (and failing) to use her new Rolling Stone connections, Erin making a shady Craigslist deal that falls through, and Blair hooking up with one of the event organizers Matt (who just so happens to be Jenny’s old crush from college).
As they navigated New York City, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the natural way the three friends talked and interacted with each other. The script is full of engaging conversations and interactions that I swear I’ve had with my own best friends over the years. The script also makes sure to Rodriguez, Snow and Wise portray a group friendship that feels so real, it’s like the actors had been friends for decades. “Someone Great” possesses this authenticity in spades.
One of the scenes that best exemplifies this authenticity is when Erin has just returned to her and Blair’s shared apartment from spending the night at her girlfriend Leah’s place. Blair teasingly says, “I think it’s very cute that you have a girlfriend.” Erin, who is terrified of commitment, corrects her best friend by saying, “Whatever. Kindly leave your heteronormative labels in a motherfucking box, to the motherfucking left. Thank you!”
The script also isn’t afraid to show some of the rough, ugly parts of friendship: the fights. One of the biggest fights occur at Neon Classic when Erin and Blair try to stop Jenny from approaching Nate (who also happens to be at the concert). After struggling to get Jenny to back down, Erin says “I love you so much. But this is getting fucking pathetic. He broke up with you.” Offended and vulnerable, Jenny says back, “My heart was ripped out of my chest, okay? But…it’s not like I’d expect you to know what that feels like. I can’t get mad at you for not understanding but I sure as hell can be mad at you for not being a friend to me right now, Erin.”
Both of these scenes center around Erin’s commitment issues, a topic connected to one of my favorite aspects of the movie: how both Erin and Blair’s respective love lives get some screen time as well. “Someone Great” is aware that Jenny’s breakup is a catalyst for the friend’s wild night out, and is smart enough to give her friends their own love stories (successful or not) which provide additional points of interest and complexity.
However, I would like to focus on the significance of Erin’s relationship. Erin is a queer Black woman in a relationship with Leah, another queer woman of color. “Someone Great’s” inclusion of an explicit queer relationship through an LGBT main character and side character are features that should be recognized and appreciated. LGBT characters have been, and still are, significantly underrepresented in not only rom-coms and romance movies, but mainstream films altogether. According to a 2019 study from GLAAD, “18.2 percent of films from the seven major studios contained LGBTQ characters…However, more than half of all LGBTQ characters still had under three minutes of screen time.”
Of the three relationships presented in the film, I resonated most with Erin’s struggle to accept and recognize her love for Leah. After leaving the concert, Erin decides to open up to Leah about her fear of relationships: “When I was in college, I thought I’d [fallen in love] with this, uh one girl, and she was great…And our relationship was beautiful. And, out of nowhere, she just…went back to men. And it fucking crushed me.” DeWanda Wise’s performance during this confession is heartfelt and one that I felt embraced the insecurities and vulnerabilities of being LGBT in a dangerously heteronormative world. This film allows LGBT women of color to feel their pain and heartbreak be validated. Erin and Leah even end up together after this heart to heart—a phenomenon that is, but shouldn’t be, very rare in cinema.
In the “Someone Great” Spotify soundtrack, Writer-director Jennifer Robinson says that the film “is a story for women, by women. I really wanted it to feel inherently female…and I wanted to make sure that the movie felt for women.” Personally, I think that Robinson achieved that goal by making Jenny, Erin and Blair well-developed and relatably flawed characters. The film’s focus on struggles other than Jenny’s—whether it was related to life, love or loss—contributed to this characterization and provided the audience with women could they admire and see themselves (and their friends) in.
What is truly great about “Someone Great” really comes down to the friendships that Robinson, Rodriguez, Wise and Snow were able to bring out in the film’s characters. It’s refreshing to see female friendship portrayed with all its good, bad and ugly moments, all without belittling its inherent value. Romantic comedies can still be about two people falling in love (And as to whether Jenny and Nate get back together…you’ll have to watch the film and find out for yourself!). But, as “Someone Great” demonstrates, the love between friends can be just as entertaining and fulfilling to watch.