I love class reunions. It's a time to catch up with those who have disappeared from the radar, and discover just about almost everything about everyone in those few moments that you have together, as you go from friend to friend, acquaintance to acquaintance, reminisce about the good ol' days, confide precious moments with trusted few, open up to those whom you have not, and basically letting your hair down and having a great time. There's so much material possible for a movie to be centered around this, that writer-director Jamie Linden did just that for his directorial debut.
And he managed to rope in a star studded ensemble to deliver his myriad of characters both male, female, central to the plot and supporting ones to lend some weight to a story that's made up of individual stories, encompassing just about every spectrum of emotion one would feel from going into such a reunion, especially one organized after a decade of absence. Features change, some of us have weight issues that are uncontrollable, while others have personality traits that are just overwhelmingly annoying, and continue to be so. There's always the one who got away, or the relatively low key one who continues to come and go quietly. Or how about those who had come to inspire us, while we see green at those who become more successful? Curiosity enters the picture when we see someone whom we haven't met for a long time, to want to know what's the latest in their lives.
Obviously there will be some scenes and moments here that some may deem Linden of being overly sentimental, or probably expected in the way things pan out in the end, where unlike Life, there's proper redress and closure of outstanding issues faced. But therein lies this charm of a second chance, even if it's on film, to play out that What If scenario on our behalf. Things such as swallowing one's pride to apologize for transgressions in the past, or to come to terms with the one who had gotten away. There were the expected natural awkward moments that are common with every reunion especially when there's open business left since the last meet, and there's a chance to seek that opportunity to heal as well.
Channing Tatum and real life wife Jenna Dewan-Tatum (his co-star in Step Up) open the film as Jake and his girlfriend Jess, the former being a little bit unsure of attending his high school reunion because of the possibility of his ex-flame Mary (Rosario Dawson) turning up as well. They congregate first at his friends Cully (Chris Pratt) and Sam (Ari Graynor), the married couple's house, together with musician Reeves (Oscar Isaac), best of friends Marty (Justin Long) and AJ (Max Minghella), and Japan-nut Scott (Scott Porter) with his Japanese wife Suki (Eiko Nijo), before making their way collectively to the reunion venue for more get togethers. With Jake still apprehensive about asking for Jess' hand in marriage, more married couples enter the picture such as Garrity (Brian Geraghty) and his straight laced wife Olivia (Aubrey Plaza), and other singles such as Andre (Anthony Mackie), Elise (Kate Mara) and Anna (Lynn Collins), the one time school flower.
The narrative spans primarily between the venues of their high school, and the bar Pretzels, where Linden has full control over the direction, with the camera panning quite freely around table to table, couple to couple, to allow the audience to listen in to conversations, and make notes that all may not be so well for those who let their true colours reveal themselves, especially after a few drinks. We see how social lubricant leads to some to self destruct, while providing courage to others in making that first move to try and reconnect. Music also sets the stage, and having Oscar Isaac star as a famous singer helped to introduce one of the most memorable developments in his character's story arc that makes it one of many love stories that pepper the movie.
While the stories told are nothing new, it is the delivery by the cast that will connect and move you to root the characters on. You will be drawn in, and identify with various moments in what would be a reunion you'd like to partake in as well, or wish that yours would be just as fond when you take that look back. It's guaranteed there's something for everyone here, with the end credits rounding up additional sequences that couldn't make it to the film proper. Recommended!