When it comes to high school reunions, no one has just an OK time at them. As unspoken laws of revisiting things that are (probably) better left unrevisited go, there are really only two options here: you are going to have AN AWESOME time or AN AWFUL time. The new dramedy 10 YEARS, despite being written and directed by the man (Jamie Linden) responsible for the abomination that was Dear John (also starring Channing Tatum) actually does a really nice, unpretentious and oddly natural job of capturing the inevitable highs and lows of events like this. This has plenty to do with the capable cast assembled, who has palpable, easy chemistry with each other and plenty with the distinct lack of pressure hanging over this movie: unlike reunions or big Hollywood films based on Nicholas Starks novel, the stakes and the need to impress are not that high. So, the movie allows itself to be itself: a small, chatty, sort-of-zeitgeisty, well acted, but ultimately not-too-ambitious drama that you feel completely ok hanging out with for 100 or so minutes.
As we discover the cast, the classic high school reunion characters emerge: the once-upon-a-time high school hero (Channing Tatum, surprisingly likable and natural), looking to settle down with his longtime girlfriend (Jenna Dewan-Tatum, his real life wife and excellent at playing hot-but-understanding). The class jerk, now married and with serious consciousness issues (Chris Pratt, using his considerable body to heartbreaking comic lengths, and Ari Graynor as his pretty, cool, practical wife), the white kid that wanted to be a gangsta rapper, now married and hiding his “dark grey” high school personality from his cool, reserved wife (Aubrey Plaza, in her usual deadpan mode). Of course, there’s the kid who seems to have it all: a house, a boat, a pretty doctor wife (Max Minghella), the kid who left and made it “big” in the business world (Justin Long), the popular girl who is still in search of that high school glow she once had (Lynn Collins), the newly minted rock star (Oscar Isaac) who still pines for the reserved girl NO ONE remembers in high school (Kate Mara). And, inevitably, the there’s the tragic class beauty (Rosario Dawson) that got away. That is just the tip of the iceberg.
Granted, this is A LOT of people to keep track of, but casting some of the most loved young character actors of today helps, as do the name tags. God bless those nametags.
Lubricated by many tequila shots, the repressed issues they all have come out (as they do). As these young people talk and laugh and cry and reminisce and make good and bad decisions (there is a TP scene and an apology sequence that will make you want to duck your head in popcorn, that’s how palpable the awkwardness of it all is), there is enough real emotion to keep you watching, even rooting for some of them.
Ad the evening unwinds, nothing unexpected happens. Still, to the filmmaker’s credit, he manages to avoid most traps in front of him: having had enough melodrama in his moviemaking past, he opts for the kind of quiet, meaningful moments that feel all the more effective in their subtlety. These people, after all, are 10 years out of high school, and it is nice to see a movie give them credit for that. The final result, as the last men standing gather in a diner to eat some bacon and possibly make some life changing decisions, we are left feeling optimistic for their reasonably stable, happy futures, which the movie made us believe they deserving. And feeling that connected to that many characters in this short of an amount of time is no small feat, so for that more so than anything else, this movie is worth a visit.