Because I was homeschooled my senior year of high school, reunions have not been and never will be in the cards for me. Does this leave me ill prepared to review 10 Years, an ensemble comedy/drama set, as the title suggests, during a ten-year high school reunion? To an extent, I suppose it does; the experience of stepping back onto academic soil and being in the same space as former friends/enemies/acquaintances/teachers/crushes is unknown to me. Having said that, I’m under no illusions that the film’s depiction of a class reunion is painstakingly accurate. Any moments of authentic human insight, I’m sure, all stem from scenarios manufactured primarily for your entertainment. Indeed, the movie is highly entertaining, playing like a less raunchy, somewhat more introspective version of this year’s “American Reunion.”
But I’m making it sound as if the film is bereft of anything meaningful or realistic. This isn’t the case. What impressed me the most was the character development – certainly at the mercy of the contrived plot, yet not without kernels of truth. True to the nature of people in the twenty-seven-to-twenty-nine age range, we see people who have grown up, people who haven’t even begun to grow up and know it, people who haven’t but believe they have, and people who aren’t there yet but are clearly on their way. Most aren’t entirely content with the direction their lives have taken, although some are obviously more adjusted than others. A select few desperately cling to the way things once were, to reputations they never wanted to begin with yet clearly can’t shake off, to little more than the hope that things are better now than they were then.
The cast of characters is large and diverse, their stories like strands weaving in and out of each other over the course of one evening in Albuquerque. There’s Jake (Channing Tatum), who’s deeply in love with his girlfriend, Jess (Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Channing’s wife), and seems ready to pop the question. But then he reunites with his high-school flame, Mary (Rosario Dawson), now married. Old feelings resurface, as would be expected. However, it would be inaccurate to say that they fall in love again or that Jake second guesses his decision to be in Jess’ life; Jake and Mary invested emotionally with each other, in large part because of a trauma that prevented them from attending the senior prom. Jess is aware that something is on Jake’s mind and is surprisingly understanding of his needs. I don’t know how plausible this is, but I suppose questioning it is pointless.
Jake’s friend, Cully (Chris Pratt), was in high school a jock and a bully. Since that time, he married his cheerleader girlfriend, Sam (Ari Graynor), and has become a father. He claims to be a changed man and goes to the reunion with the goal of apologizing to everyone he tormented. His intentions are noble, but his methodology is all wrong. It’s almost as if he expects to be forgiven by virtue of the fact that he’s attending the reunion. It doesn’t help that he spends the entire night drinking, which eventually leads to a rather embarrassing karaoke performance at a local bar. The more he drunkenly tries to say he’s sorry to a man named Peter (Aaron Yoo), the more he reverts back to the jerk he once was. Sam, plainly disappointed by the compromises she made so early in her life, can do little more than watch her husband spin out of control.
There’s Marty (Justin Long), supposedly a wealthy New York playboy, and A.J. (Max Minghella), who’s married and has bought a yacht despite the fact that he doesn’t live near the water. They’re longtime friends who have had a rivalry of sorts, one that visibly amplifies at the reunion. They’re both trying to hit on Anna (Lynn Collins), a flirtatious sexpot who was, in her day, the hottest girl in school. We can clearly see that all three of them are lying to each other, but it takes a while before they realize they’re each lying to themselves. Meanwhile, a successful singer/songwriter named Reeves (Oscar Isaac) reunites with his old crush, Elise (Kate Mara), who allowed him to copy answers in physics class. She was at that stage of her life a nonentity, and on the basis of how he’s approached by fans, she seems to be the only person in America who hasn’t heard Reeves’ hit single on the radio.
Unquestionably, the happiest person in the entire film is a man named Scott (Scott Porter), who for the past several years has lived in Japan and is now married to a beautiful young woman named Suki (Eiko Nijo). It might have been more interesting to make him the central character as opposed to Jake, mostly because his live-life-to-the-fullest attitude acts as a refreshing counterpoint to the rest of the characters, all saddled with insecurities, regrets, and disappointments. How would it feel to step back into your former life, if only for one night, and discover that everyone you knew had either matured too quickly or not quickly enough? I cannot answer that question. It would have been nice had the people behind 10 Years taken that approach. As it is, it’s a serviceable film – well cast and well acted, with a series of routine yet competent subplots woven all throughout.
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Anchor Bay Entertainment