Coming of age is typically thought of as the transition from childhood to adulthood. But for many women, urban living comes with a greater array of options and adolescence is increasingly protracted into our twenties. Our friends become our adoptive family, marriage is delayed or scrapped altogether, and we have the chance to experience all the decadence and sweetness that city-living has to offer.
Director and writer Jennifer Kaytin Robinson lifted the story for Someone Great from her own (bittersweet) coming-of-age experience. The film follows Jenny (Gina Rodriguez) who, on the cusp of turning thirty, lands her dream job. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, but it also means leaving NYC to move across the country. When she’s dumped by her longtime boyfriend shortly thereafter, Jenny’s two best friends—Erin (DeWanda Wise) and Blair (Brittany Snow)—spring into action. The result is a rollicking farewell extravaganza as Jenny closes one chapter and opens another.
“It’s not autobiographical but it’s definitely inspired by me, and I’m not creative with names,” laughs Robinson. She was marinating on the story for a good eight years before she even opened the final draft. “When I did start to write, it poured out of me,” she says. “It was one of those things—I knew it so well because it really is borne of my experiences, and my friends and my world.”
Like Jenny, Jennifer was also dumped by her NYC boyfriend (on her birthday, no less). And she too had ride-or-die friends (like Erin and Blair) who helped her through it and remain her best friends to this day. It is the deep bond of female friendship that is the strongest element in the film, usurping the usual rom-com trope of “romantic love conquers all.”
Depicting real female friendship was paramount, so Robinson consciously stacked the project with diverse female talent (there were seventy-four women both behind and in front of the camera). “You’re making a story about women, written by women, directed by women. This story is so inherently female in its DNA. For me, having a group of amazing women bring that story to life—to collaborate with—was really special,” says Robinson. “There was a base level of understanding: we see you and we get you. They were all about sisterhood. There was no ego. The energy was so palpable, not only between the four of us, but between all of the women working on the project.”
It is also a film about finding oneself. “I wanted to tell a story about women who are coming into their own and are feeling excited about where they’re at in life,” says Robinson. “They’re moving out of their twenties and into their thirties in a way where they feel like they know themselves really and truly for the first time.” For some women, this path means marriage and kids, but Robinson wanted to make a film that showed a different route. “There’s so much more to life and so much more out there for women. it’s not that [kids and marriage] are wrong or bad; it’s less about where you’re going and more about feeling excited to experience whatever feels the most right to you as a person.”
The film is also an homage to New York City, with scenes shot in aging apartments, nightclubs, bodegas and Washington Square Park. “So many of my greatest memories in my twenties are in NYC, running around the city with my best friends,” says Robinson. “Feeling heartbroken, feeling the highs and lows—they feel a million times more powerful when you’re feeling them in New York City.”
Someone Great is Robinson’s directorial debut, but she felt as natural creating Jenny’s world behind the monitor as she did bringing it to life on set. “On set, there’s a level of imposter syndrome, where you’re like, oh my god I can’t believe I’m here,” she explains, “but I also felt like it’s the most me that I ever feel.”
At thirty-one, Robinson is around the same age as Jenny is as she embarks on her new adventure. “I’m the most comfortable with myself that I’ve ever been,” she says. “That takes time, and mistakes, and life and experience. I feel very excited, but I also feel the most myself and the most aware that I’ve still so much to learn about myself.”
Ultimately, Robinson hopes people will see themselves in this film. “[If] it’s young people who have yet to enter this point in their lives, I hope they feel excited. If it’s people who are in [this phase] right now, I hope they feel comforted by the fact that they are not alone. For people that are older, I hope that they feel nostalgic for this time. All of those emotions. If I’ve done everything right, this movie will make you want to hug your best friend and text your ex.”