Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 21, 2012)
Apparently American Reunion wasn’t the only 2012 film to examine the subject of the high school reunion. This also becomes the primary event in 10 Years, a flick that provides the expected take on a 10-year high school gathering.
While I normally write my own plot synopses, I hate doing so for ensemble flicks like this, so I’ll just copy the blurb from the Blu-ray’s case: “Jake (Channing Tatum) is deeply in love with his girlfriend Jess (Jenna Dewan-Tatum) and ready to propose — until he runs into his high school flame Mary (Rosario Dawson). Jake’s friend Cully (Chris Pratt) married his cheerleader girlfriend Sam (Ari Graynor) and has been looking forward to the reunion so he can finally apologize to all the classmates he bullied. Marty (Justin Long) and AJ (Max Minghella) vie to impress Anna (Lynn Collins), the hottest girl in class. Reeves (Oscar Isaac) graduated a band geek, became a rock star, and knows tonight is his chance to finally talk to the secret crush Elise (Kate Mara).”
That’s a lot of characters/threads to balance in a 101-minute movie – and the synopsis doesn’t even mention all of them! – but 10 Years works fairly hard to treat them all relatively equally. Of course, that’s not possible in a literal sense, so some threads receive more attention than others. In particular, we get a lot of Jake and his feelings toward both Mary and Jess, and we also see a lot of Reeves/Elise. The other characters earn a decent amount of time, but they don’t receive quite as much attention.
I suspect the film would’ve worked better with a pared-down roster of characters. It casts an awfully broad net and just doesn’t have enough time to flesh out the participants in a vaguely satisfying manner. From start to finish, it comes with a “hit and run” vibe, as it flits around its bloated roster of roles.
Though given the nature of the story, I’m not sure it’d be any better with a more concentrated set of characters. A lot of the problem comes from the manner in which 10 Years wants all of its participants to go through big, life-changing events during the reunion. How often does that happen? Who goes to a reunion and encounters any real drama? It’s always a lot of “how’ve you been?” and “remember when?”, so the theatrics and confrontations feel artificial.
A few do ring more true, I’ll admit. Actually, when I attended my own 10-year reunion, I went through a less extreme version of Cully’s attempts to bond with former foes. A classmate with whom I never got along came up to me and wanted to bury the hatchet. I said sure – even though I couldn’t have cared less – and that was that. This lacked the drunken shenanigans of Cully’s endeavors, but at least I can relate to the concept.
The notion of persistent romantic feelings also makes sense, so I can buy into that, but the movie takes most of its themes too far. We can’t just see Marty and AJ pine for Anna; we have to find lies and revelations along the way. Has there ever been such a theatrical high school reunion with so many dramatic moments?
I guess I understand why the filmmakers went down this path, as a movie about a more real reunion would probably be pretty dull. Nonetheless, the result still feels awfully artificial, and that takes away from any potential impact.
It also wastes an impressive cast. I think the various castmembers do as much as they can with their thin roles, but they’re stuck without much room to move. Some seem totally misused; do we need strong actors like Anthony Mackie and Aubrey Plaza in throwaway parts?
10 Years never becomes a genuinely bad movie, but it seems too broad and overly dramatic. For a film that wants to be about real life, its lack of an authentic feel becomes a major flaw.