Alibi V.24 No.45 • Nov 5-11, 2015 

Film Review

Miss You Already

Anemic drama looks at friendship, illness

Toni Collette and Drew Barrymore
“It’s OK. I forgive you for starring in two Adam Sandler movies.”

Miss You Already (2015)

Directed by Catherine Hardwicke

Cast: Toni Collette, Drew Barrymore

Miss You Already has got all of its ducks in a row. It wants really badly to be a tender, emotional, gently funny story about female friendship in the face of adversity. It’s just itching to impart all sorts of lessons about life and death and female empowerment and body issues and whatnot. It’s hired a couple of solid actresses to express all the deep feels it’s trying to express. And it’s placed several credible women behind the camera for maximum authenticity. It’s a real shame then that Miss You Already doesn’t go through the trouble of actually delivering a compelling movie.

We start off with our no nonsense narrator Jess (the nearly always lovable Drew Barrymore) recounting her lifelong friendship with wild child bestie Milly (fantastic Aussie Oscar nominee Toni Collette). The two met in elementary school when Jess’ father was transferred to London on business. Since then they’ve been inseparable, going through life’s ups and downs together with humor and resolve. Milly married a rock star roadie (Dominic Cooper) and had a bunch of kids. Jess met a nice construction worker (Paddy Considine) and started living on a houseboat. This lengthy, pre-credit monologue/montage tells us everything we need to know and saves the actresses the trouble of—you know—actually establishing a chemistry with one another. It’s all spelled out for us, neat as a pin.

Shortly after the opening credits roll, we get our drama bomb when we’re informed that Milly has breast cancer. The Big C. That’s a pretty serious crisis for best friends to overcome, no? Since Jess has to have some story as well, there’s a subplot about her trying to get pregnant and going through in vitro fertilization. Two medical crises for the price of one; imagine the drama! Please, continue to imagine it. Because Miss You Already would rather you do most of the heavy lifting yourself. All the cliché signposts have been laid out along the route for you. You just need to laugh and cry and sympathize on cue. And fill in all the blanks that a more conscientiously constructed drama would have taken care of.

It’s not that Miss You Already lacks sincerity. It’s oozing with the stuff. Everyone involved seems to want it to work. But it just doesn’t build up much of a compelling narrative. What’s there lacks detail and nuance and the tiny, unexpected moments that bespeak authenticity. The simple, linear story doesn’t add anything new or fresh in the way of flavoring. Milly learns she has breast cancer. She shares the info with her best friend. There’s a lot of crying and commiserating. Later, there’s some drinking. Then there’s the chemotherapy. And the bit where Milly’s hair falls out. There’s the sequence where the girls go wig shopping. Then there’s the dark scene where the doctor talks about mastectomies. Milly worries she'll lose her sex appeal. More drinking. At some point people sing along to REM. There’s the inevitable falling out. And the just-as-inevitable reunion. None of it’s unrealistic, mind you. Plenty of people have gone though this exact sequence of events. But there’s nothing here you couldn’t learn from ticking off bullet points on a brochure in your oncologist's waiting room.

The film is directed by Catherine Hardwicke, who started out strong directing edgy films Lords of Dogtown and Thirteen—then got really boring by doing the first Twilight movie. Here, she retreats to her indie roots, but she doesn’t seem to have the chops for it anymore, relying on simple montages and easy narrations to tell rather than show. Jess spends an awful lot of time explaining what’s going on—as if we needed the hand-holding. Her best friend has cancer. They’re dealing with it. That’s pretty much it.

Miss You Already wants you to laugh and cry as if you were watching Steel Magnolias crossed with Beaches. But you’re not. The film’s script, by longtime British TV actress Morwenna Banks (“Hyperdrive,” “Skins,” “Absolutely”), intersperses its tear-jerking not with moments of actual humor, but with brief flashes of flippancy. It’s like those Hallmark birthday cards with pictures of the grim reaper on them. They aren’t actually funny, but you get humor credit for the symbolic honesty.

Miss You Already means well. Its rare that we get to see movies about relationships between women, particularly women in their 40s. But this one’s little more than a well-cast Lifetime Channel movie. Toni Collette deserves better. The girl who starring in Charlie’s Angels deserves better. Hell, cancer deserves better.