Finally shaking off the bad stigma from films like Twilight and Red Riding Hood, Catherine Hardwicke is returning to the more grounded style of filmmaking which started her career when she made the movie Thirteen in 2003. With her new film Miss You Already, she crafts a heartwarming and bittersweet story of inseparable best friends that is made even more convincing by the great chemistry between lead actresses Toni Collette and Drew Barrymore.
Looking at Hardwicke’s career it almost looks like she was finished with small contained dramas, something I feel she’s excelled at. The other films, like the ones I’ve mentioned previously and The Nativity Story, failed to hit a satisfying mark and I won’t even begin to talk about the lows of Twilight. This broadly accessible new “chick flick” is a welcome breath of fresh air in the middle of a slough of underwhelming films in the last few weeks.
The film centers on two life long best friends living in England. Milly (Collette) is the daughter of a British soap actress, a forever wild child who ends up marrying a dashing rocker (Dominic Cooper) and having two kids but still enjoying a free spirited lifestyle. Jess is a bit more grounded, an American immigrant that became friends with Milly in grade school. With aspirations of starting her family, she lives on a houseboat with her beau Jago (Paddy Considine).
Tragically, Milly is diagnosed with breast cancer and, in the fashion of her “center of attention” personality relies a lot on her best friend, much to the chagrin of Jago. Milly’s cancer ends up driving an unfortunate wedge between him and Jess as the couple are both readying themselves for fertility treatment as well as Jago going away to work on the oil rigs. Things are tough on both families but the constant that remains is the strong bond between the two friends.
The thing that kept me totally immersed in the film was this beautiful friendship between these two actresses who obviously have a special link in real life. This is felt in every interaction on screen and brings more of the real feeling dialogue that is felt throughout the film. There’s also the incredible charm of the men in their life as Dominic Cooper brings the same great enthusiasm that he does to all his roles and Considine is one of those British actors who is welcome in anything he does.
This film may feel manipulative in scenes, almost as if it was sponsored by Kleenex but the triumph of having a script that doesn’t pander to an unnecessary sappy depth really saves it in the end. Hardwicke also shoots some of the tougher scenes very closely, like when Milly finally tells her husband Kit about her cancer diagnosis. It gives the scene a heart wrenching intimacy that really propels your emotion for the characters. Unfortunately when it’s used later in the film it doesn’t have quite the same result and feels pretty forced.
For me one of the other things working against it was a subplot involving a bartender played by pop punk band All American Rejects singer Tyson Ritter that took me out of the movie for a bit. It felt very generic and unnecessary, more of a device to create unneeded conflict. I’m sure there’s other ways of putting a temporary damper on things rather than going back to the well of cliches.
Happily, in the end, I can say there is a date movie or girl’s night film that isn’t too sugary sweet to hurt your teeth and will leave you satisfied in the end. My hope is that Catherine Hardwicke uses this film as an example to keep her on the path of where her strengths lie. I definitely enjoyed my time with Milly and Jess and give Miss You Already a three and a half out of five.