Mark Reviews Movies

10 Years


3 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Jamie Linden

Cast: Channing Tatum, Justin Long, Max Minghella, Oscar Isaac, Kate Mara, Rosario Dawson, Chris Pratt, Ari Graynor, Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Brian Geraghty, Aubrey Plaza, Lynn Collins, Scott Porter, Anthony Mackie, Ron Livingston

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for language, alcohol abuse, some sexual material and drug use)

Running Time: 1:40

Release Date: 9/14/12 (limited); 9/21/12 (wider)

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Review by Mark Dujsik | September 20, 2012

I have not attended a high school reunion, but I imagine it is as equally enjoyable and awkward as the one presented in 10 Years, a bittersweet ensemble comedy about how much people and circumstances can change while staying quite the same. Love is lost but never really. People move on with their lives but never really grow out of their old behavior and habits. Regrets define the course of one's life almost as much as his or her accomplishments.

Writer/director Jamie Linden's film is a mature observation of people still trapped in and still beholden to the experiences of their adolescence. Linden's screenplay knows all the answers for its characters' problems yet has the patience to let them learn for themselves. Even more importantly, Linden never stands in judgment over these people for their flaws (sometimes more obvious than others), even when they are completely oblivious to how those faults affect others or unable (or unwilling) to accurately express what's wrong in the first place.

All it takes is one spark to bring back the old memories and feelings—the good as well as the bad. The banquet hall where this high school reunion is taking place is full of sparks—every face, every photograph, every story, every flippant remark. It's like—to mix metaphors—a minefield of memory.

At the center of the story is Jake (Channing Tatum), who is thinking of proposing to his girlfriend Jess (Jenna Dewan-Tatum). He has the ring sitting in the glove compartment of his car but has yet to find the "perfect" time to ask her to marry him. Everyone who learns of his intentions says the same thing: Just ask her, and it will be the perfect timing. Something is holding him back, and it might have something to do with his ex-girlfriend from high school, who, according to everyone and to Jake's relief, has said she doesn't plan on showing up to the reunion. It comes as no surprise when she does. Her name is Mary (Rosario Dawson), and she arrives with her husband Paul (Ron Livingston).

It has been eight years since Jake and Mary have spoken to each other, and there is considerable tension in their first official meeting. The camera keeps them both in focus on other sides of the room as they clumsily look toward each other. She walks over. He goes to hug her; she's uncertain. As the evening unfolds, both Jess and Paul wind up on their own as Jake and Mary reminisce. We have a solid foundation of their history fairly quickly: He stayed in town to be with her after school until the point came that he simply had to leave for college—to move on with his life.

There are no hard feelings here, only missed opportunities, and Linden doesn't play coy about the true feelings of these two. While it's apparent that they are devoted to their significant others, it is also equally obvious that there would be the potential for rekindled romance given a different set of circumstances. As they ease into conversation throughout the night, the tension about where this re-acquaintance could be heading increases.

Also present are Marty (Justin Long) and AJ (Max Minghella), best friends since high school who have found some financial success in their respective careers. Marty lives in New York City and has a reputation for bedding models (AJ provides most of the talk for this), while AJ has settled down with a wife. Both were once attracted to Anna (Lynn Collins), the most popular girl in high school, but she never would have given them the time of day back then.

AJ convinces Marty to try to sleep with her, but for some reason, AJ keep trying to woo her himself (not effectively, either, like when he shows her a picture of his newly acquired boat). It's the weakest of the three main stories (Also, Marty and AJ are the least sympathetic of the bunch—at least at first), but after leaving the reunion, they end up coming together after a childish prank. The resulting talk reveals how much they have in common, mainly how they all have a low opinion of themselves.

The final main strand revolves around Reeves (Oscar Isaac). Now a famous singer, everyone has their eyes on him, but he only has eyes for Elise (Kate Mara). It's the sweetest of the threads, as Reeves not-so-subtly drops hints that he might have had a thing for Elise in high school.  The climax has him singing his current hit, and the moment when he drops a telltale mention of her mid-verse is surprisingly affecting.

Linden's screenplay certainly suffers from a case of "Too Many Characters" syndrome. While Cully (Chris Pratt), a binge drinker who doesn't realize that aggressively trying to apologize to people for being an "asshole" in high school only makes him a bigger one, and his wife Sam (Ari Graynor), who is rightly resentful of her husband's behavior, are fleshed out just enough, other characters—like Garrity (Brian Geraghty), who has to convince his wife (Aubrey Plaza) that his hip-hop lifestyle as a teenager don't define him now, and Scott (Scott Porter), who lives in Japan and has no other discernible traits—are little more than background dressing.

Even so, the characters we do get to spend time with are likeable (if not at first, ultimately so) and reflect some identifiable and sympathetic pang of regret or disappointment. It's a heavy load, and 10 Years bears it with little strain.

Copyright © 2012 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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