10 Years follows a group of high-school friends around their high-school reunion, ten years after their graduation. There’s the formerly popular kid (Charming Potato) and his best friends who still manage to form a kind of a clique, his new girlfriend (Jenna Dewan-Tatum), the class bully (Chris Pratt) and his patient wife (Ari Graynor), the dorky best friends (Justin Long, Max Minghella) who chase after the hot girl (Lynn Collins), the shy girl (Kate Mara) and the successful rock star (Oscar Isaac) who has a crush on her, and the one who got away (Rosario Dawson).
Taking place over a single night, the characters drink too much, re-live their high-school years and do their best to forget the realities of their present lives. There isn’t a lot of dejected moaning about the past and most people seem fairly well-adjusted and content with their lives. The movie is a comedy and an enjoyable one at that. There’s really no mean spirited message to be found here, nor any pinnacle moments of reform or dark unassailable truths. What remains is a lot of love, love from the director for these characters, and an obvious camaraderie between the actors. Everyone had a blast doing the film, and it is evident throughout.
Charming Potato manages to not steal the show in his leading-man role, instead providing a centering mechanism as the other characters spin out from him, but there’s something infinitely sweet about watching his utterly-in-love interactions with real-life wife, and in-movie girlfriend, Jenna Dewan-Tatum. Chris Pratt is quickly becoming one of the most enjoyable actors working today, whether it’s as the charming dullard Andy on “Parks and Recreation” or in any of his recent roles. 10 Years allows Pratt to do what he does best — big blustering bully buffoonery — and in fact, as the former high-school bully, he spends most of the night zoning in on former victims and attempting to apologize for his behaviors. Ari Graynor plays his patient and long-suffering housewife, and their easy interactions are among the more comedic and fun to observe. Everyone else turns in enjoyable performances, but the best perhaps goes to the awkward Kate Mara and the rock star who loved her in high-school, played by Oscar Isaacs. Much of the evening revolves around people expressing delight in his hit song, which, when we actually get to hear it, is kind of good. Their tentative give and take, ebb and flow held the most anxious promise and fascination, as everyone else appeared far too comfortable.
One of the major flaws of the movie for me was that there did not appear to be a consistent age frame across the film. Max Minghella looks far too young and Rosario Dawson looks far too old. I just looked it up, yes, she’s only 33, and yes, it feels hateful and small-minded to focus on such a trivial matter, but there you have it. Another flaw seems to be that not a whole lot happens. The reunion experience is fairly immersive but passes quickly enough, with a few laughs along the way, characters growing and becoming more aware of each other in ways they did not expect. While the script isn’t the stuff of legend, it’s filled with nuance and romance and, again, it’s fun to watch. Another blessing is that before you become bored of any one character’s storyline, another will come along and distract you within a few moments, never allowing the story to become too stagnant, but also unfortunately never quite allowing us to get too far beyond stereotypes for some minor characters.
The slew of films I’ve seen of late, from Celeste and Jesse Forever to Liberal Arts, seem to suggest for an entire generation that it has gotten hard to admit that what is being lived is actually one’s life. There still seems to be a subtle suspicion that this is all preparation for when our real lives begin, that we’ll be wiser, different, and maybe we’ll feel like grown ups. The people we once knew, especially in our high-school years, had a strong hand in shaping who we were, sending us out into the world like satellites, and this brief blip back home reinforces what we already suspected. Films like 10 Years remind us that we change, but we never really change that much.