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Almost Friends Review

Almost Friends is a 2017 comedy drama about an unmotivated man in his mid 20s still living at home who falls for a young woman who has a serious boyfriend.

Love ain’t an easy game to play, the rules seemingly always changing about, leaving most wholly unsure what to do even when they really can’t stop themselves from trying over and over. It’s been the calling card of Indie films for decades, with most earnestly telling off beat stories of the game in action, for good or for bad. Now comes Jake Goldberger‘s Almost Friends, a genuinely sincere effort that falls into some ruts we’ve traveled before, even as it remains a pleasing little tale of romance.

Wallowing in his early twenties, Charlie (Freddie Highmore) still lives at home with his doting mother Samantha (Marg Helgenberger), his little brother and their new stepfather. His best friend and wingman of sorts is Ben (Haley Joel Osment), but he pals around a lot with the lovely Heather (Rita Volk), friends literally since birth, but he’s crushing on Amber (Odeya Rush), a girl who works at the local coffee shop. Problem is, she’s the girlfriend of university track star Brad (Taylor John Smith), who seems to like her but is much more interested in training. Charlie’s not the most confident fellow and struggles with his feelings and with what to do, as Amber faces some new challenges of her own. Meanwhile, Charlie’s estranged father Howard (Christopher Meloni) arrives back in town with hope to insert himself back in the family. It’s gonna be an awkward summer.

With a light strumming guitar and a breezy-easy pace, Almost Friends is a pretty straight-forward romance, with heaps of generic charm we’ve all seen plenty of times before. That doesn’t make it bad, far from it, just very, very familiar, as Goldberger ticks off the short list of must-haves in the genre. Charlie is dyed-in-the-wool for this, a lanky, mop-topped introvert with loads of untapped potential, working at the local cinema, keeping his dream of owning a restaurant on the far back burner as something he wanted only as a child. Naturally, he’s an astonishing chef at home and even has opportunities but let them pass. It’s a reliable story, populated with the usual quirky ups and downs.

Goldberg does avoid a few pitfalls, such as not making Amber’s boyfriend a total dolt, even as he is driven by his sport. The relationship that develops between Charlie and Amber does grow with authenticity and admittedly, Highmore and Rush are well cast and packed with chemistry, making the feelings between the two feel real. It’s just too bad there are so many other tributaries we are meant to follow, including a subplot involving Amber’s cousin Jack (Jake Abel), another floundering twenty-something whose sunken deep into the bottle. There are others as well, however Goldberg can’t quite keep the plates spinning enough to keep them useful.

Sometimes contrived with orchestrated moments designed only to advance the plot, a few that are eye-rollers, there’s not much of an organic feel to it. Still, these are very good performances, with veterans Helgenberger and Meloni truly holding up their limited end of the deal. This helps a lot with a film that, like Charlie, is loaded with potential, even as it chooses to stay safe rather than take a chance. As one character says to another, “you have so much going for you it’s frustrating.”

Almost Friends Review

Movie description: Almost Friends is a 2017 comedy drama about an unmotivated man in his mid 20s still living at home who falls for a young woman who has a serious boyfriend.

Director(s): Jake Goldberger

Actor(s): Freddie Highmore, Odeya Rush, Christopher Meloni

Genre: Comedy/Drama

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