Miss You Already works best when it dispenses with the clichés and the characters get real, says MacDara Conroy
Miss You Already is a film I’ll admit to liking more than I’d expected – which, going by the marketing, was ‘Beaches reboot’. A “heart-warming and heart-breaking tale of female friendship, loyalty and strength”? That’s Beaches. An “honest and powerful story following two best friends through the highs and lows of life”? Yep, Beaches alright. So colour me surprised that I left the cinema without humming ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ to myself.
Now, that’s not to say Miss You Already isn’t like Beaches at all. It is essentially the same story, hitting the same beats, as best friends since childhood, high-flying PR exec Milly (Toni Collette) and down-to-earth hipster Jess (Drew Barrymore) get torn apart by circumstances but are brought back together by even bigger circumstances. Yet director Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen) brings a more sombre tone – maybe too sombre to be a future go-to weepy? – as the ‘chick flick’ trappings act as a Trojan horse for a candid, honest depiction of a woman’s struggles with cancer.
Hardwicke’s film certainly doesn’t shy away from the realities of Milly’s disease. Not so much the internal experience, as any attempt would require a far bleaker film at the very least, but rather the emotional stress cloud that surrounds it and consumes all in its path, especially relationships with close friends and loved ones. Miss You Already works best when it dispenses with the clichés and the characters get real, none more so than a bold scene around the half way mark in which Collette has her head shaved bald.
It’s Milly’s film, that’s for sure. Morwenna Banks’ story pays lip-service to Jess’ own baby-making complications with partner Jago (Paddy Considine) but Milly is the fulcrum, tearing the film along as the diagnosis sends her off the rails, a good person who does bad things under the influence of great emotional and mental turmoil. It’s clearly a middle-finger to the notion that cancer patients are angels by default.
However, those ‘chick flick’ trappings, the sugar to sweeten the bitter pill, are impossible to look past entirely. The ‘best friends from two different worlds’ schtick is the stuff of farce; it’s no stretch to imagine another film with the exact same characters, but instead of being torn apart by cancer and its corrosive effects, the high-flying PR exec splits with her hipster gal-pal over a gentrification project or some such.
As it is, their milieu is too perfectly upper middle class, and everyone has to have their quirks: Milly’s husband Kit (Dominic Cooper) a former rock’n’roll roadie more grounded than his spouse; her mother Miranda (Jacqueline Bisset) a self-absorbed monster straight out of Ab Fab; even her ‘bit of rough’ is a bone fide rock star (Tyson Ritter of The All-Americam Rejects). But it’s a spur-of-the-moment taxi trip to Bronte Country in the Yorkshire moors singing along to REM’s ‘Losing My Religion’ that really takes the biscuit; it’s everything wrong about a film that gets some things very right.
Miss You Already opened nationwide on Friday September 25th