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The best that can be said for “10 Years,” the Jamie Linden helmed pic which opens in the USA on 14 September 2012, is that it boasts a cast of top 20-somethings who get to showcase their chops. The worst that can be said is that some auds will remember “The Big Chill.” The 1983 Lawrence Kasdan feature defined the baby-boomer generation in a way that few pics have. Its premise was the suicide of the best and brightest of a group who attended the University of Michigan in the 1960s counter-culture era, which prompted a college reunion of sorts for the funeral. “The Big Chill,” itself, was inspired by the 1979 John Sayles effort, “Return of the Secaucus Seven” which for a while was a bit of a cult film.
That’s pretty heavy stuff compared to the lightweight idea of about 20, 28-year-olds getting together for their 10th high school reunion. First, high-school issues tend to pale in importance compared to choices facing one a few years later in life. Second, pic’s twenty-somethings were infants in the era of “Dynasty’s” shoulder pads, too young for the Gulf War and largely exempt from Iraq and Afghanistan unless they volunteered. Pic’s characters had it handed to them.
That makes it a tad difficult from a structural standpoint for auds to develop sympathy for said characters. It is a credit to the thesps that many of them overcome pic’s inconsequential premise and make the connection.
Here’s how it works: In a series of tableaux, mostly in real time, pic takes a group from high school who have never shed their teenage flaws and throw them together for a bacchanal in a downtown hotel in their hometown of Albuquerque. They are all trying to impress or not be crushed by their classmates. A few of them have scores to settle. The camera functions as a sort of fly on the wall.
Most egregious, perhaps, is Cully, played by Chris Pratt who seems to have gained weight for the role. He was the class bully, now determined to make amends — it’s like a phase in a 12-step program. Unfortunately for him and long-suffering wife Sam (Ari Graynor), he has too much to drink, makes a bloody fool of himself, partially disrobes, and reverts to type. Sam’s job is to be Cully’s designated driver — with all that it implies.
Then there’s Reeves, the rock star, sympathetically played by Oscar Isaac. His unfinished business is with Elise, now a real estate broker, played by Kate Mara as the class shy girl who was Reeves physics partner in high school. Elise comes across as one of pic’s most sympathetic characters. It turns out that Reeves wrote his most popular song for her, “Never Had,” written by Isaac and Alan Doyle and performed on stage by Isaac. She hears it for the first time. The ice is broken. We have now got our ten-year torch settled. One may assume that they live happily after ever. This is where a nice device, the decade old pix decorating a wall, comes into play by way of exposition. The key is Elise’s yellow shoes.
Anna, the class hottie played by Lynn Collins, certainly fits the part. She was the lust object of former geek Marty (Justin Long), who pretends to be a Wall Street bigshot but really can’t afford more than a one-room apartment — heck, it’s New York, after all. Anna is the girl Marty never had the guts to ask out during high school.
Marty’s juvenile prank reveals that Anna has not had a fabulous decade. Her goal is to recover her glow and show it off before her ex-friends. Perhaps to her, nostalgia means more than to the others. To Collins’ credit, her transitions are perhaps pic’s best. She goes from foxy siren to single mother of two without missing a beat. This tableau is pic’s loose end, but signs are hopeful.
Pic’s crux turns out to be the unexpected, but casting Rosario Dawson in anything is a prescription for fireworks. It seems that pic’s alleged star, Channing Tatum as Jake, who also gets producer credit, has been waffling for months about proposing marriage to his girlfriend, Jess, played by his real-life wife, Jenna Dewan-Tatum. Hers is a difficult part. It is largely without drama, and her character, who was not part of the reunion class, is the least self-serving of the bunch. Jess has only one issue: She wants to know why Jake left Mary (Dawson), his high school sweetheart. Mary is now married, but she radiates electricity. There is also a residue of consideration and friendship and love and a little unfinished business between Mary and Jake. As a plot device, Jess takes off, leaving Jake on his own. This makes possible the dénouement between Jake and Mary, perhaps pic’s most touching moment.
Technical credits are more than adequate. Jamie Linden partially atones for a less than gripping screenplay with a firm hand at the throttle aided in large measure by Steven Fierberg’s lensing and Jake Pushinsky’s cold machete in the cutting room. Sound recording is as good as it gets. At 90 minutes, pic does not wear out its welcome. As romantic comedies go, it has a little something for everyone. There are silly pranks and stupidities for the teenagers, some lost love and some found love for their elders, and enough gentle humor to keep pic from plumbing the lower depths. Mendacity is absent. Rated PG-13, for language, alcohol abuse, some sexual material, and drug use, there is nothing in this that will corrupt the kids, but some emotional themes may fly over their heads.