Almost Friends combines your usual young adult romance storyline with an interesting perspective when it comes to the female lead.
|Ben||Haley Joel Osment|
|Brad||Taylor John Smith|
At the core of the story is how complicated relationships between men and women are. Especially young men and women. The focus is primarily on the relationship between Charlie and Amber. Charlie is someone who, after a tragic accident, has put a long pause on his life but Amber, this barely out of high school girl, is someone who kind of pushes him to live again. Not in a manic pixie dream girl or even, “I came into your life to solve all your problems” kind of way. For she has her own issues.
Of which, Charlie is kind of one of them. She is leaving for NYU soon, hasn’t been single since grade school and her latest relationship, with track star Brad, is going on 4 years. However, Charlie kind of shakes things up in a way. He pushes her to question her relationship with Brad almost as if she has been on auto-pilot. And with her being able to open up about something with Charlie she wasn’t able to with Brad, it leaves her very confused.
Other storylines include Charlie’s deadbeat father Howard coming around, Amber’s cousin Jack and Charlie’s best friend Heather having their own complicated relationship.
Question(s) Left Unanswered
- How was Jack able to afford to live on his own and take in his cousin? All he did was watch TV and drink.
- How did Ben and Charlie meet? What connected them?
- With Heather growing up with Charlie, since they were babies damn near, has he always had this sort of brother vibe or did she, at one time, have feelings for him?
- How old is everyone? Amber is just getting out of high school, so assumingly she is 17 or 18, and Charlie is able to get alcohol so he is at least 21. Is this weird to anyone his pursuit of someone barely out of high school or is it just me?
In films like these, more often than not the girl is simply the catalyst for the male lead to get his life back on track. However, Amber is given the autonomy to be so much more than that. For while we aren’t told outright what she is going to NYU for, at least when it comes to her relationship with boyfriend Brad and her friend Charlie, she is allowed to be complicated.
This can be seen primarily in the notation she is a girl who hasn’t been single since grade school and has been with Brad for four years. This little, almost passing detail, helps you understand her relationship with Charlie and how it is allowed to blossom. Especially as we see how Brad and Amber interact and get this vibe she just has never been single so when Brad asked her out, she said okay.
The narrative, in my mind, isn’t shown that often. The idea of a girl being on autopilot and going from boyfriend to boyfriend. Which, sadly, we don’t learn the reason why. However, as she grows closer to Charlie, have conversations we don’t see her have with Brad, and open up to him in ways she doesn’t feel comfortable with Brad, something clicks.
In a way, it is like she is experience her first adult relationship. One which doesn’t circle around Brad and isn’t solely about his desires. Which, based off her getting pregnant, seemingly include not using a condom. Instead, with Charlie, she has conversations about insecurities, life, and doesn’t honestly seem to just be eye candy. Something that definitely made Odeya Rush seem like more than just another actress casts on beauty alone.
On The Fence
Charlie’s Pursuit of Amber & The Friendship Thereafter
There is a certain awkwardness about Charlie, thanks to Freddie Highmore who seemingly can only play awkward, that makes the relationship with Amber weird. At least at first. It is kind of cute with him noting she is really something but with him showing up to her job, not even buying anything it gets uncomfortable. Especially since Rush portrays Amber’s discomfort when it comes to Charlie but with being made to feel guilty by her coworker Annabel, she gives him a chance.
This to me sort of took away Amber’s agency a bit. As if, despite having a boyfriend, and knowing Charlie clearly wants a relationship, she should feel bad for not giving him the time of day. As if he is a regular at this coffee place and Annabel knows him well enough to vouch for him.
To me, her being coerced to feel bad enough to give Charlie a chance, and him low-key stalking her at work and at Brad’s track meet, it made me feel uneasy. Granted, they get past the kind of fantasy only men could think works but it makes for a rough beginning.
Jack and Heather
There is something about Abel and Volk which really want to invest in Jack and Heather. The problem is, they are big enough characters for their own movie but instead play B-side to Charlie and Amber. So while we learn Jack got left at the altar, with Heather we just learn she dated jerks before. Which is pretty much the most we get out of their relationship.
Though, as individuals, Jack fairs slightly better. Through Amber low-key pressuring Charlie to give Jack a job, we learn no one has taken a chance on him in a while. Also that he has a drinking problem and hasn’t held a job for longer than 2 months for a long time. With Heather? We only really learn she has been friends with Charlie her whole life. That’s about it.
Charlie’s father, who seems like a very per diem dad, doesn’t have the kind of complicated relationship with his son you sometimes expect him to. He goes out of his way to help him have a place to stay, despite his mother’s feelings about Howard, yet there isn’t any pursuit of a connection there. There are some crocodile tears, a talk or two, which includes revealing, through his private detective work, the truth about Amber, but Howard often comes off as a weak comic relief. Making what Charlie does to him at the end of the movie something that leaves you more so hunching in indifference than shocked.
Overall: Mixed (Divisive)
While I certainly enjoyed Amber’s part of Almost Friends, everything else kind of felt lacking. Charlie’s pursuit of her really pushed the question of when is it officially inappropriate the way you are pursuing a girl? Then when it came to Jack and Heather, it seems their relationship and characters were more so included to increase the time length of the movie than for us to truly invest and them and ultimately feel rewarded for doing so.
Hence the mixed label for though Odeya Rush gets a good part, everyone else fits into the issues often seen in coming of age romances. Be it the uncomfortable, borderline inappropriate beginning, this vibe the girl is just a catalyst to restart the male lead’s life, and the supporting characters barely having a life outside of the one they share with the protagonists. Yet, despite the criticism, I will note it makes a enjoyable one and done watch.