Comedy, Romance and Drama Last Through an Enjoyable "10 Years" Review

When I first heard about director Jamie Linden’s new film, 10 Years, the premise rang hollow in my ears: a group of people in their late twenties gather for a high school reunion. How blase. Am I right? Still, I was intrigued by the potentially dynamic ensemble cast and I have enough faith in star/producer Channing Tatum’s ability to turn a potential dungheap into gold. Okay, maybe not gold, but very solid movies (remember Magic Mike?). Worst comes to worst, I thought, I’ll spend a couple hours watching a very handsome cast cavort about onscreen for a couple of hours. Not the worst way to spend a weekday night.

It’s nice to be pleasantly surprised. The cast, as expected, turns in a delightful performance (more on this later), but it was writer-director Linden’s script that really caught me by surprise. Linden, whose previous writing credits leave much to be desired (We Are Marshall, Dear John), makes a very impressive directorial debut. Yes there are moments where script gets hokey and sentimental (it is, after all, about a high school reunion), but overall it sounds modern without losing its thoughtfulness or sensitivity. Also, and this shouldn’t be forgotten in the fracas, it’s quite funny (that’s important in a comedy, right?). It isn’t Oscar fare, to be sure, but I can safely guarantee that it will be better than at least a couple of the nominees for Best Picture.

The best parts of Linden’s writing were moments wherein he juxtaposed moments of unguarded frailty against the background of hanging-out party scenes, which brings me to the movies greatest strength, its cast. Tatum’s unaffected portrayal of nice guy Jake is a familiar variation on an old tune, but he brings to it his trademark charisma and charm and is therefore easy to forgive. The real strength of the cast is Parks & Recreation star Christopher Pratt as obstreperous drunkard Culley. Pratt effectively pulls off a character whose desire to be loved is the font of both his fawning adoration of his wife and his inebriated, insecure and overly aggressive drunk double that angrily seeks to impose its will on his perceived weaker cohorts. The dissonance between his two personae provides the film with some of its best (and most squirmingly awkward) scenes.

Other members of the cast probably deserve more exacting and florid commendation than I’m able to provide here, but here is a cursory sketch of the up-and-comers that populate the excellent cast of Linden’s new movie. Ari Graynor’s excellent role as Pratt’s wife places her at the center of many an awkward scene as she tries to explain her husband’s erratic behavior, which she handles with aplomb. Max Minghella, Justin Long and Lynn Collins each play a side in a bizarre one-night love triangle that ends with revelations that each of them would have preferred to keep secret. And perennial second-fiddle Oscar Isaac gets a moment to shine as a somewhat famous musician who has returned to his hometown for more than just his high school reunion. Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Aubrey Plaza, Rosario Dawson, Kate Mara and Anthony Mackie fill out the rest of the cast with splendid performances in lesser roles. 

10 Years never sets out to change the landscape of cinema, and that is part of the reason why it is so effective. It’s an absolutely guileless movie that benefits largely from a strong script and a core group of actors that each play their part with such magnetic charm it’s nearly impossible to fault them for the few moments of treacly sentiment that do find their way into the movie. Even then, Linden does well to correct the course and give us commensurate scenes of resonant poignancy. It’s a film that I would enthusiastically recommend to anyone who likes their films with a charming lack of pretension, yet still manage to honestly comment on contemporary life.

"10 Years" opens September 14, 2012 and is rated PG13. Comedy, Drama, Romance. Written and directed by Jamie Linden. Starring Ari Graynor, Aubrey Plaza, Channing Tatum, Chris Pratt, Justin Long, Max Minghella, Oscar Isaac, Rosario Dawson.

Juan Guzman • Staff Writer

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