From the plot description, “Somebody I Used to Know” might sound like a cross between a Hallmark movie and “My Best Friend’s Wedding” (which gets an in-on-the-joke shout-out by one of the characters). But the film, which begins streaming Friday, Feb. 10 on Amazon Prime Video, is a romantic comedy that, to its credit, doesn’t go where you think it will.
“We were trying to subvert expectations every step of the way,” says Dave Franco, who directed “Somebody I Used to Know,” and co-wrote the film with his wife, Alison Brie, who stars.
“We love the romantic comedy genre,” says Franco, and “Somebody I Used to Know” leads viewers down a path, for a while, where they expect a certain sort of ending. But the movie, which was largely filmed in Oregon, follows its own path, ending up in such unconventional destinations as, to name one, a nudist colony.
Which is, of course, located in Oregon. But more on that in a bit.
In “Somebody I Used to Know,” Brie stars as Ally, who has gone to Los Angeles with ambitions to make documentaries. She has instead become a reality TV producer, whose show, “Dessert Island” – “I wasn’t here to make friends, I was here to make flans,” a cast member declares — gets canceled by the network.
Deflated by her career setback, the workaholic Ally decides to visit her hometown, which happens to be Leavenworth, Washington. Northwest residents may already be familiar with the rather unlikely “Bavarian village,” as the town describes itself, but it feels like a fresh location for this sort of story.
Franco doesn’t overdo the Alpine-in-the-Cascades atmosphere of Leavenworth, or lean into kitsch. “I have a friend whose family has a house there,” Franco says. “I went to her sister’s wedding there.”
While visiting, Franco says he found himself thinking, “What is this place?” In making Leavenworth Ally’s hometown, he and Brie thought about how someone growing up there might think they were in the middle of nowhere, but it’s actually special, and very charming.
After she arrives at her mother’s house in Leavenworth – accompanied by her cat – Ally runs into her ex-boyfriend, Sean (Jay Ellis), in a local bar. The two enjoy an epic catch-up session, which rekindles Ally’s interest in her ex. But before anything can happen, Ally discovers that Sean somehow forgot to tell her that he’s not just engaged —he’s about to get married.
Though she’s tempted to try and sabotage the wedding, Ally has second thoughts when she starts to feel a kinship with Sean’s fiancée, Cassidy (Kiersey Clemons). It doesn’t help that her old friend, Benny (Danny Pudi, one of Brie’s costars in the much-loved comedy, “Community”), is also advising Ally to butt out.
The lush, woodsy atmosphere of the Pacific Northwest is an intentional part of the narrative. At the beginning, Ally is in Los Angeles, “And we shot those scenes in a way that felt more stark, and a little cold, and that kind of reflected where the character was at mentally,” Franco says.
Once she’s back in the Northwest, Franco says, Ally’s character starts to loosen up, and remember her roots, which are far away from the corporate environment of the Los Angeles TV industry.
“We shot 95 percent of the film in Oregon,” says Franco. “Somebody I Used to Know” is the second film Franco and Brie have made in the state, after their collaboration on “The Rental,” a 2020 thriller set on the Oregon coast.
“I can’t stay away,” says Franco, who filmed “Somebody I Used to Know” in Oregon in the fall of 2021. “It’s partially because the landscape is so beautiful. You point the camera, and in every direction, it’s stunning. I love the crew up there. It’s a bunch of nice, hard-working people.”
“Somebody I Used to Know” features Oregon locations such as Portland, along the Clackamas River, and a sequence at the Gearhart Hotel, a McMenamins property in the north coast town of Gearhart.
“It’s so beautiful out there on the coast,” Franco says, remembering that “we just begged and pleaded” to film at the hotel. “It felt cozy, yet glamorous, and it just kind of checked all the boxes. They were very accommodating.”
Another location that’s a bit more unique, yet sounds totally Oregon, is a nudist retreat where one of the “Somebody I Used to Know” scenes takes place. “We filmed at a real nudist retreat just outside of Portland,” Franco says. “It’s actually the oldest nudist retreat this side of the Mississippi. When we were there, we got to talk to a lot of the people there, and they were joyous, open-hearted people.”
The couple was in Portland again a few months ago, Franco says, where they enjoyed “one of the best meals we’ve ever had” at Kann, chef Gregory Gourdet’s critically acclaimed restaurant.
“We also love Sweedeedee, which is our favorite café/brunch spot,” Franco says. “.We could hang out there for hours. Another spot we kept frequenting was Lovely’s Fifty Fifty, which was some of the best pizza we’ve ever had. There’s a vintage clothing store called Kissing Booth, which we love.”
Brie and Franco live in Los Angeles, but he says, “We keep wondering, why don’t we just move up to the Pacific Northwest?”
— Kristi Turnquist
503-221-8227; firstname.lastname@example.org; @Kristiturnquist
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