During one moment in Someone Great, Gina Rodriguez, Brittany Snow, and DeWanda Wise find themselves in the middle of a bodega, clutching Diet Coke and tearfully singing along to Selena's "Dreaming of You." It's the calm before the neon storm: In just a few minutes, the women will down their green juice mimosas, pop molly, and hit a neon-lit NYC music festival in search of solace for heartbreak. If hanging out with this girl gang through their singalongs and tequila shot kickbacks is your idea of an ideal Friday night, then let Netflix's Someone Great gift you a good time.
Hailing from the mind of Sweet/Vicious creator Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, Someone Great is not exactly the same brand of Netflix romantic comedy that Set It Up and To All The Boys I've Loved Before bestowed upon us. For one thing, it's about the aftermath of a breakup, rather than a slow-burn get together. It makes the case for a whole new genre of movie: the breakup rom-com.
In Someone Great, Jenny (Rodriguez) is moving from New York to San Francisco for a job at Rolling Stone, and her longtime, NYC-based boyfriend Nate (Lakeith Stanfield) has called it quits. As Jenny recruits her friends for one nostalgic night at music fest Neon Classic, she reminisces about her romantic past, and attempts to figure out her future without the one-time love of her life.
It's a film about friendship, powering through the suck, and, ultimately, realizing that maybe you were the "someone great" all along. Thanks for the memories, babe.
Over the phone, Refinery29 spoke with Robinson about her new Netflix venture, the sexist backlash that comes with making a movie about real women, and why Jenny and Nate are never, ever getting back together.
Warning: Some mild spoilers for Someone Great ahead!
Refinery29: The title Someone Great is from an LCD Soundsystem song. Was that always the title?
"It was the first thing I typed. I thought about what this movie was called, and Someone Great just poured out. LCD Soundsystem is probably the band for me. I’ve seen them probably 15 times in concert, throughout my 20s. I feel so connected to them and their music. The lyrics just resonate with me in such a real way. While the song ‘Someone Great’ is about the end of a relationship and not necessarily a romantic relationship, it’s the song I’ve listened to at the end of every breakup.
"The other thing I really love about the title, outside of the LCD Soundsystem of it all, is that at the beginning, you think ‘someone great’ is Nate, but at the end, you realize it’s Jenny."
One of my favorite things about this movie is that there is a real lack of petty conflict between Jenny, Blair (Snow), and Erin (Wise). Did you go into Someone Great wanting to change the narrative around women friendships?
"I get in fights with my friends, and there is a fight-ish in the movie at Neon Classic, when Jenny is [trying to talk to Nate] and Erin is upset. What I wanted was the conflict to be rooted in a place of love. There’s a difference between that and jealousy and shitty frenemy stuff. If the friends are going to be mad at each other, I wanted it to be from a place of ‘I care about you so much, please don’t do this.’
"Honestly, I think that women are [forced to deal with] systemic competition, in every aspect of being a woman. One of those things is that, if you had sex with a man, you can be the only person who has done that. I just don’t feel that. I think that’s crazy. Jenny did her thing with Matt (played by The Bold Type's Peter Vack), but she’s so far past that, and there aren’t feelings there anymore. I think if there were feelings there, Blair wouldn’t have done it. It feels true that Blair would be worried that Jenny would be upset, but it also feels true that Jenny would be like ‘Absolutely not, I haven’t thought about that guy since literally the night I met Nate.’ I wanted to throw away those movie tropes and cliches."
In the screening I attended, someone asked why you had the women in the movie drink so much and do drugs. What do you say when you face questions like that?
"It’s institutionalized sexism and the patriarchy. Women are told to be ‘good girls,’ and the dynamic is ‘boys will be boys, boys can have fun,’ and women are supposed to be a certain version of themselves. When we see women on screen who are a little outside that box, you get eyebrows raised, and you get people upset about that. It’s not just men [who are upset by that], it’s women, too. There’s so much scrutiny that women get to be likeable, and I was just like — no. Fuck that. It’s not even women behaving badly, it’s women being like people. They’re just living their lives. Most people have a day where they let it all hang out. For me, when I get those questions and I hear those things, I just know it’s sexism. I don’t know if it’s even the person asking the question’s fault, because I know how ingrained the sexism is from all the things they’ve seen and know and have been taught for years and years."
Were there any scenes that were particularly difficult for you to write or direct?
"I felt the most emotional while filming the sex scene after the fight on the street. That was very raw because it was something that I felt personally as a woman many times, and Gina and Lakeith did such an amazing job in that scene. I was so entranced by the performances in the scene, that it hit me before I knew what was going on. The other scene was the breakup, but I knew that would be a hard one for me. While there was nothing in that moment that was actually said in my life, the emotion was there, and there were many [set choices] that I made in that room to make it look like rooms I sat in when I broke up with people, like books on the floor, that kind of thing. It made it very emotional for me, and very surreal."
During the filmmaking process, did you get any pressure to have Nate and Jenny get back together at the end of the film, or to maybe hint at a reconciliation in the future?
"Everyone was really onboard with the film I wanted to make, and the ending that I wanted the film to have. To me, that’s the whole movie, that ending is the whole movie. I don’t think it could exist without the ending that it has. Could Nate and Jenny get back together in the future? My answer is no, because it doesn’t feel real. I think in the real world, they would talk for a little bit, and then grow apart. Then one of them would probably see that the other is dating someone on social media.
"The more real version of this is that they were growing apart within the relationship for a while, and the breakup gives them a chance for them to be their own people for the first time. I think that’s real, and beautiful, because it allows them to experience life in a different way."
I want a whole universe of stories with these three women...any chance we can make that happen?
"It was the greatest joy of my life to work with Brittany, Gina, and DeWanda. It was such an incredible and rewarding experience. There’s so much love between the four of us. None of what you see onscreen is manufactured. That’s genuine, unfiltered love between the three of those women. We need to figure out what we all want to make, and I will clank away on my keyboard. I would love our own cinematic universe where we can play with genres and make really fun amazing films about women where we continue to work together. I want to make a heist movie with them."
What does your perfect career look like, now that you've made Someone Great?
"The dream for me is for me to have my own production company, and to make things not only for myself, but to use my platform to bring other women in. If in 10 years, I can be a name that helps other women get their stories told, that would be incredible."
Someone Great hits Netflix April 19.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.