Almost Friends (2016) - Review

by - April 03, 2019

Synopsis: Charlie is a college drop out still living at home who finds himself struggling to discover who he really is as he deals with an irresponsible father and a crush on a young woman who already has a boyfriend.

Timing Is Everything.

Once a promising up and coming chef, Charlie (Freddie Highmore) has since dropped out of college and moved back home to live with his mother, Samantha (Marg Helgenberger) and stepfather Ross (Gary Moore). It's clear he's feeling unmotivated and stuck in life, seemingly content with working as an assistant manager in the local movie theater. His family and friends seem to think maybe he's depressed, but it appears as though the only thing that can pull him out of his stupor is his crush on Amber (Odeya Rush), a young woman employed at the coffee shop Charlie frequents. Amber is going through her own life changes as she prepares to leave town for college, including her blossoming feelings for Charlie and her confusion over her long term relationship with her inattentive boyfriend Brad (Taylor John Smith).

There are a couple of subplots that don't really lend much to the overall plot of the film. The first is Charlie's estranged, irresponsible father Howard (Christopher Meloni) reinserting himself into Charlie and Samantha's life while searching for a job. It's very clear that Howard left Samantha and Charlie high and dry when Charlie was a little boy, and Samantha's dislike for Howard is so fierce that it's a bit mindblowing when she agrees to let Howard move into her home, albeit temporarily. Charlie clearly wants to help his dad, despite the obvious inevitability that Howard will only end up disappointing him. Again. I suppose Charlie's relationship with Howard is an important plot point as it helps fuel Charlie's growth, but at the same time, it felt a tiny bit out of place, though Meloni is always a treasure to watch, even when he's being a total jerk.

There is also Amber's alcoholic, assholish brother Jack (Jake Abel) who asks Charlie to get him a job at the theater where he has become addicted to playing a candy grab claw game in the lobby where a golden chocolate bar has eluded him. He's also interested in Charlie's friend Heather (Rita Volk) but the film doesn't spend a lot of time on that particular pairing beyond a disastrous first date and a rather cliched apology. That being said, Jack was actually the comedic backbone of the film in a dry, sarcastic kind of way that I appreciated.

The real highlight here is the budding friendship between Charlie and Amber. Highmore brings a subtle awkwardness and uncertainty to Charlie that is wholly relatable for any 20-something who feels lost in self-doubt. He is also earnest, more than willing to be nothing more than a friend to Amber if it means being able to spend time with her. Rush is a promising young actress, playing Amber as sweetly sympathetic, despite her occasional missteps.

I could see where this movie was going from a mile away, but I still enjoyed it thanks to Highmore and Rush. It's a pleasant viewing, though nothing terribly groundbreaking. More than anything I appreciated the ending because it was actually based in reality and stuck with the tone of the film, rather than blasting off into a fantasyland of implausibility. When you're young and finally heading out into the world on your own, the future you may design for yourself isn't a given, but the movie left me with plenty of optimism.

Starring: Freddie Highmore, Odeya Rush, Haley Joel Osment, Jake Abel, Rita Volk
Directed by: Jake Goldberger
Rated: TV-MA
Watched: 04.03.2019
Fun Facts:
- The original title of the film was Holding Patterns.
Notable Song: Keep On Loving by Little Royal

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