A reunion you won’t regret
By Michael O'Sullivan
Friday, September 21, 2012
It’s hard to imagine a time when the high school reunion was ever a fertile setting for a film. Like the prom, the metaphorical watershed of the reunion has for so long been drained of interest by the countless cinematic probings of its mother lode of awkwardness, glory, longing and lessons waiting to be learned that it seems like it was always an impoverished idea.
So it was with no small sense of dread that I walked into “10 Years,” an ensemble dramatic comedy set at the 10-year reunion of a group of for-the-most-part preternaturally good-looking high school friends. And it was with no small sense of surprise that I walked out when the film ended. The directorial debut of screenwriter Jamie Linden (“We Are Marshall”), “10 Years” is a bracingly un-gimmicky, heartfelt and fresh take on the theme of growing up.
It helps that Linden manages to sidestep most of the cliches inherent in the theme of romantic regret. For a seminar on indulging those cliches, see “American Reunion.” On second thought, don’t.
To be sure, a number of subplots in “10 Years” deal with unresolved attraction. At the center is the one involving Channing Tatum and Rosario Dawson as Jake and Mary, former lovers now both happily involved with someone else but who haven’t entirely made up their minds if they’re over each other.
Tatum’s real-life wife, Jenna Dewan-Tatum, plays Jake’s understanding girlfriend, while 45-year-old Ron Livingston plays Mary’s patient husband. “I thought you were her father,” says Cully (Chris Pratt), a recovering high school bully who grows ever drunker -- and more lovably uncensored -- as the evening wears on and he attempts to make amends to all the “nerds” he tormented in school.
For the record, the nerds are the only ones who look like real people; almost everyone else comes across like a movie star. It’s a minor, and forgivable, sin. Pratt’s “Parks and Recreation” co-star Aubrey Plaza brings her trademark astringency to the role of Olivia, the slightly snarky wife of a reunion attendee (Brian Geraghty) who she may not have known as well as she thought. Olivia’s somewhat skeptical take on the film’s increasingly liquored-up shenanigans -- which migrate from a hotel ballroom to an after-hours karaoke bar -- is a good stance for viewers to adopt.
Other story lines concern the theme of romantic regret. Oscar Isaac plays Reeves, a high school musician turned pop superstar who has been harboring a secret crush on a classmate (Kate Mara). In the same vein, Justin Long and Max Minghella play Marty and AJ, slightly nebbishy pals who have long shared an unrequited sexual fantasy about a hot former classmate, Anna (Lynn Collins).
In a strange (and, to be fair, alcohol-induced) form of flirting, Marty and AJ follow Anna home after the reunion and -- wait for it -- toilet-paper her house. The behavior is more elementary school than high school, but Long and Minghella’s clueless earnestness somehow makes it work. When, to their chagrin, Anna invites them in, they realize that she’s infinitely more real, more imperfect (and hence more interesting) than they ever could have imagined.
The ensuing scene is a delight. The refreshingly sweet and chaste dynamic between Anna, Marty and AJ -- in fact, the entire subplot involving these three richly imagined characters -- is worth the price of admission.
“10 Years” doesn’t completely avoid the road-not-taken theme. It does, however, neatly navigate around many of the potholes, finding a novel and nuanced approach to addressing the ways that our mistakes make us better, wiser and more human.
Contains drug and alcohol abuse, some crude language and sexual material.