It would be easy to write off Miss You Already, the latest feature from Thirteen and Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke, as your latest run-of-the-mill chick flick. Equal parts comedy, drama, tragedy and inspiration, it is the kind of film that pretty much markets itself as one that will exclude men in its audience. Surprisingly and enjoyably, Miss You Already offers more than the average audience would expect. Drawing on the charismatic and easy chemistry between its two formidable leads, it tries to avoid the swamp of sentiment that so often accompanies films of this type, and does so with moderate success. Mostly poignant but occasionally frustrating, Miss You Already is an examination of life, love and friendship through both the good times and the bad that is full of humor and warmth.
Miss You Already is the story of two life-long best friends, the American-born Jess (Drew Barrymore) and wild British native Milly (Toni Collette, committing to the role both physically and emotionally). Together, the pair has been inseparable since they met as schoolgirls; celebrating first kisses, first loves, the loss of virginity, marriage and having kids. Celebrations, that is, until now, with the lump in Milly’s breast diagnosed as malignant. From here, the movie moves into the very difficult and yet realistic territory of Milly’s treatment and the effect this has on those around her, including Jess, who has just received some exciting yet life-changing news of her own.
Actress and writer Morwenna Banks’ own experience with breast cancer is evident within Miss You Already’s screenplay. Having herself lost three close friends to breast cancer, there is incredible authenticity that comes through in some of the more gut-wrenching and confronting moments Milly experiences as a result of her disease. Indeed, some of the film’s strongest moments come from seeing the utter despair, anger and sadness from its supporting cast as they process Milly’s disease, an experience Banks herself is clearly familiar with. This sense of legitimacy is well maintained by Hardwicke, comfortable in more grown up territory and putting forth an appropriately mature style of direction, striking a delicate balance between tragedy and rom-com while dealing with a heavy subject matter.
Unsurprisingly, the best parts of Miss You Already are the ones that focus on the relationship between its two leads, Collette and Barrymore – both putting in strong turns. In particular, Collette’s performance as the cancer-stricken Milly is nothing short of wonderful. Milly is as selfish as she is ill, as inconsiderate of others as she is wanting of others to make her the center of attention, and the fact that after just under 2 hours you still like her and feel sympathetic towards her is a testament to Collette’s intricate and multi-layered performance. She embraces Milly’s physicality like it is her own, bringing an incredible rawness to the performance that conveys the utter anguish Milly feels as she moves through her diagnosis.
Likewise, as her co-conspirator, Barrymore rounds out the manic and overpowering nature of Milly’s character with her nuanced performance. Perfectly complementing the heightened, dramatic and frenzied character of Milly, Barrymore’s presence is smooth, effortless and calming; every moment she is on screen is an utter delight. Jess’ genuine warmth, unwavering faith and never-ending patience are easily portrayed by Barrymore, making you wish you and your best friend’s relationship was as strong and unbreakable and Jess and Milly’s. In their supporting roles as the pair’s supportive spouses, Dominic Cooper and Paddy Considine are well cast. They are admirably perfect pillars of support and understanding, even when the best of us couldn’t be. Cleverly, both actors imbue their characters with just enough idiosyncrasies to overcome cookie-cutter characterization and become real and flawed characters. They both become meaningful to the audience, particularly in the much needed middle section of the film.
In fact, the only real issue with Miss You Already is its sag in the second act. Despite its valiant efforts, the film is overcome with the typical swamp of emotions that often accompany ‘cancer’ films, as Milly succumbs to her seemingly overwhelming desire to throw herself a pity party. As Milly wallows, so too does the film, suffocating from a certain aimlessness in the lead up to the conflict that establishes the third act. Whilst it is unfair to accuse the film of being overdrawn, there is a certain lull that comes as the film tries to justify Milly’s overindulgence. This, however, is a minor criticism, seeing as momentum improves greatly in the latter stages.
Although perhaps not as funny as it thinks it is, Miss You Already is a vivid, amusing and refreshingly frank discussion of the brutal effects that cancer has on love, life, friendships, relationships and sex. For anyone who is being treated for cancer or knows someone who is being treated, the movie will hit close to home and arouse some heart-wrenching memories. For the younger female audience who is yet to consider the issues discussed, the film is an eye-opener, and more than enough to make you want to call your best friend as soon as it is over.
This is a stylish, energetic and beautiful film about female friendship, and its success is in no small part thanks to the performances of its two charismatic leads. Together, Barrymore and Collette are completely believable and relatable, engaging audiences until the very last scene in fits of laughter and sadness. It’s the kind of chick flick that we have missed for some time, and something we already wish we could see more of.
THE REEL SCORE: 7/10