Dave Franco and Alison Brie have wanted to write a movie together for years. But it wasn’t until “the world ended,” as Franco put it, during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that the couple, who have been married since 2017, hunkered down for a strict writing schedule.
What they initially believed would be only two weeks of being at home led to a unique opportunity for Franco and Brie: the chance to collaborate long-term on what would eventually become their newest feature, Somebody I Used To Know.
The romantic comedy film, which releases on Amazon Prime on Feb. 10, follows a workaholic television producer named Ally, played by Brie. The story centers on Ally questioning her life choices upon reconnecting with her former boyfriend and his fiancé, a woman who reminds Ally increasingly more of her younger self, during a weekend trip to her hometown.
As Franco and Brie sit for a roundtable interview, the pair are brimming with the sort of artistic exuberance that comes from discussing a film like this; a film with such a wild blend of moments, as well as suggestive humor, that pushes the boundaries of the rom-com genre, all-the-while grounding audiences in emotionally-resonant sobriety.
“It's all about the stakes of the scene,” Brie said. “I think that we talk a lot with each other about how we don't go about comedic scenes and dramatic scenes any differently. It's all about 'What's going on emotionally for that character? What's the realest, truest version of that?’ And sometimes it happens to be funny, and sometimes you end up in tears.”
Franco said much of the humor in Somebody I Used To Know comes from weird characters being put in weird situations, giving earnest performances and letting the comedy flow naturally.
Brie, who starred as Annie Edison in Community, credits her past cast mates with helping her develop her approach to comedy.
“It was like comedy classes every day essentially,” Brie said. “And everybody was coming at their roles from a different comedic sensibility. You know, Chevy Chase is very physical. Joel McHale’s more sarcastic. Donald [Glover] is just so funny in every way, that it just was like a crash course…I think that all of that is infused always in the way I joke, and forever will be part of my comedic vocabulary.”
Brie said both she and Franco had experience collaborating with other writers prior to Somebody I Used To Know, as Franco co-wrote The Rental with Joe Swanberg and she co-wrote Horse Girl with Jeff Baena.
The Rental was the pair’s first opportunity to work together, with Franco directing and Brie acting in the film. Brie said that following that experience, writing together seemed like the natural next step for them.
Franco said he and Brie came up with the idea for the film while walking around his hometown of Palo Alto, when the theme of reconnecting with your roots and confronting the person you used to be came up.
“In terms of practically how the writing process actually looked, it would be me at the computer and her standing and pacing back and forth,” Franco said. “I’d be like ‘Alright, what would you say if you were going through this?’ And then she’d be kind of acting it out and I’d write down her words and it was a fun back and forth.”
Thumbnail image courtesy of Amazon Studios.