Somehow Sex and the City, despite its popularity and longevity, didn’t spark a golden age of TV shows or movies about friendships between women navigating the wilds of a major metropolis. What made that show great wasn’t its fixation on materialism (even though, for many, that was the big takeaway); its wit and verve, and its frankness about the way women talk to one another when they’re truly close, were the big selling points. As much fun as the show was, though, its view of how women forge friendships in a racially mixed city like New York was unrealistically homogenous: Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte were all white.
In its casual honesty, open-heartedness and occasional bawdiness, the romantic comedy Someone Great, written and directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson and airing on Netflix, honors the spirit of the dearly departed Sex and the City, even as it better reflects the diversity of the population—and the way people from different backgrounds often become friends—in a city like New York. Jenny (Jane the Virgin’s Gina Rodriguez) has just broken up with her boyfriend of nine years, Nate (Lakeith Stanfield), and as is so often the case with breakups, she can barely believe that it’s happened: She’s moving from New York to San Francisco for her job—as a writer for Rolling Stone—but she doesn’t understand why Nate won’t try to keep the relationship going long-distance. A heartbroken mess the morning after the breakup, she calls one of her two best friends, Erin (DeWanda Wise) and persuades her to play hooky from work that day; they kidnap the third member of the duo, Blair (Brittany Snow), while she’s in the midst of a big presentation at work. Their plan for the day, in addition to acquiring wristbands for a big, sold-out music showcase that night, involves all manner of drinking, smoking and otherwise letting loose. Jenny is a mess, but she’s trying hard not to be, and her friends are right there for her.
In the course of this day we learn a lot not just about Jenny, but about Erin and Blair too: Jenny has made it as a music writer, but Nate’s ambitions seem more tentative, and that has caused friction in the relationship: In one sequence, we see them launching into one of those vicious fights that appear to start out of nowhere, as if a match has been struck invisibly. Later, the two make it up in bed, but you can see by the strained look on Jenny’s face that the duo’s problems aren’t even close to being solved. Meanwhile, Erin is involved in what she views as a casual relationship with a boutique owner, Leah (Rebecca Naomi Jones). But Leah wants more, and Erin’s reluctance to commit is visible to everyone except Erin: Blair, her roommate, lectures her about it—though she herself is entrenched in a ho-hum romance with attentive-but-boring Will (Alex Moffat), a guy who’s all wrong for her.
Jenny, Erin and Blair spend their stolen day shopping for new clothes, singing along to Selena, bickering affectionately and smoking weed, as well as procuring drugs for later that evening. (Their dealer is RuPaul, in a delightful cameo, attended by a scattering of tiny chihuahuas dressed up like baby-dolls.) The city, a jumble of welcoming Brooklyn brownstones and flashy nightclubs, is a fourth major character in Someone Great; Washington Square Park in particular, with its stately noble arch, is an anchor spot for Jenny. There, she revisits one of her most cherished memories of her relationship with Nate, but it’s also where she comes to terms with the practical realities of their breakup. The movie’s New York is shot, with true-to-life luster, by cinematographer Autumn Eakin.
Nothing outshines the three women, though, as they dole out largely unwanted advice to one another before heading out for the evening, strutting their stuff in glam going-out clothes. Jenny is the somewhat dreamy one, reluctant to let go of her ideas of what life should be, though in the course of the day she figures out what her path needs to be. Erin, so seemingly self-assured, has to reckon with her own fragility. (In one of the movie’s best moments, she at first defiantly resists the bourgeois New York activity of going to the farmer’s market on Saturday—only to turn around and acknowledge that doing so actually sounds comforting and fun.) And Blair is impossibly annoying and uptight, but Jenny and Erin adore her even so. As played by Rodriguez, Wise and Snow, these women embrace one another’s differences and help ease the way through tough times. The city is theirs for the taking, a backdrop for their raunchy jokes, furtive sexual encounters and procurement of various feel-good substances.
But the three of them are also a city unto themselves, a fortress whose walls are fortified by unconditional support. The “someone great” of the title isn’t some mythical romantic object. It’s each of them, bringing out the best in each other.