Published Sep 30, 2015There is a very large, very specific demographic of people that will absolutely love Catherine Hardwicke's ode to the gal pal weepie genre, Miss You Already. These are people that share Minion memes and very strong opinions about childhood vaccination on Facebook. They brag about the benefits of eating raw for the two months that they do it and buy the shit out of Swarovski charm bracelet additions. This latest inoffensive and readily accessible Drew Barrymore dramedy was made for these people.
Even though they'll likely talk through half of the movie — in a crowded theatre — they will be moved to tears and potentially text a long-time friend about it while driving home. And since dozens of idiotic male id-impulse fantasy movies about superheroes and stoic dickheads are marketed to the terrifyingly large Peter Pan contingent of men every year, it's sort of great that there's equally condescending fluff being marketed to undiscerning women.
When Miss You Already opens, a lengthy montage with voiceover outlines the lifelong friendship of reckless narcissist Milly (Toni Collette) and diffident doormat Jess (Drew Barrymore). It seems the girls have done everything together, including losing their virginity to a presumably crab-infested musician in a pseudo-statutory rape-y stage-side situation (that's played for comedy), which is why it makes sense that, as adults, Milly's breast cancer diagnosis would affect them both and test the boundaries of their friendship.
Now, to be fair, once this whirlwind synopsising of two entire lives is complete — ironically, Milly, the rebel, wound up happily married with two kids while Jess, the practical one, is just approaching the subject of motherhood with her whiny ass of a boyfriend, Jago (Paddy Considine) — there is something sort of authentic about how these characters are established. Milly's "fuck it all" attitude is nicely juxtaposed with Jess's oft-sarcastic disposition, establishing a natural chemistry between the two, which is heightened by the believable bond between Collette and Barrymore. It also helps that Toni Collette is a phenomenal, brave actress that isn't afraid to portray unlikeable characters, balancing fear with strength and selfish abandon after the cancer diagnosis sets the tone of Miss You Already early in the film.
What works here is the well-timed comedy delivered by the two lead actresses as well as the unflattering and somewhat devastatingly realistic depiction of cancer treatment. It's not all just blanket platitudes here; Milly deals with her self-perception of sexual desirability when faced with a mastectomy and responds to her crisis in a consistently and understandably selfish manner. In this, Hardwicke's modern take on Beaches pulls no punches and proves to be a rather touching text.
But, as the story progresses, there's a seemingly constant need to step away from these harsh realities to crack a joke or reassure the audience with overly familiar, cutesy pap. Every time this well-acted drama touches on something powerful, it pauses, shuffles and continues on down a formulaic path of broad juxtapositions and crudely defined life lessons, most of which involve Milly learning just how much she takes Jess (and her husband) for granted.
The worst part about this tearjerker is Hardwicke's atrocious directing. There's absolutely no visual continuity, spatial awareness or aesthetic trajectory; Miss You Already is ugly and incoherent. While Hardwicke does seem to be decent at getting the best out of her actors —keeping Collette from going over the top while pushing Barrymore slightly outside of her comfort zone —as far as basic visual storytelling goes, she's a female Michael Bay, inexplicably tossing in crane-work and bizarre candid shots from unflattering angles for no reason at all. If this otherwise competent buddy dramedy is an example of anything, it's how the director might be better suited for television, where the style is already denoted by the series pilot. There's nothing cinematic about it, and the format of the film is so simplified, twee and manufactured that it could likely be timed by screenwriting textbook examples.
Miss You Already hinges on the predictability and the simplification of complex issues; it's touching enough to stir up some superficial emotions without rocking the boat enough to challenge any existing ideologies. It's the cinematic equivalent of going to a fortune teller: You're not actually going to learn anything new or be surprised, but you'll be validated and reassured by someone looking to make a quick buck off you.