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Miss You Already

Lionsgate Home Entertainment // PG-13 // March 1, 2016
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Tyler Foster | posted March 9, 2016 | E-mail the Author
Milly (Toni Collette) and Jess (Drew Barrymore) have been friends since they were children. They've shared first kisses, first loves, marriages, and the birth of Milly's two kids. In voice-over, Jess says that there's almost no photos of her that Milly isn't in. Both of them are casually comfortable with the direction their lives are going: they're both professionally secure, have healthy and happy relationships with their respective husbands Kit (Dominic Cooper) and Jago (Paddy Considine), and are looking forward to what the future brings. For Milly, however, that future is thrown into uncertainty when she is diagnosed with breast cancer.

Summarizing Miss You Already is a challenge because so many of the statements that might be used to describe it have pop cultural baggage. It's a film about cancer, which suggests a mawkish melodrama full of platitudes and Dramatic Moments, but Miss You Already remains unflaggingly optimistic in the face of pain and heartbreak. "Tearjerker" comes to mind as an odd descriptor that is not quite a genre, and arguably an unnecessary distinction between plain old "drama" that exists to dismiss movies for women (The Shawshank Redemption, for instance, brings people to tears, but I'm skeptical anyone would call it a "tearjerker"). That, then, leads right into the fact that it's about the deep bond between two women, as written by a woman and directed by a woman, so the ultimate shrug off, "chick flick", can't be far around the corner.

The truth is that Miss You Already should speak to anyone who has ever had a long and enduring friendship, or who has had their comfortable life -- even if it didn't seem comfortable at the time -- unexpectedly rocked by disease or the possibility of death. Milly and Jess have never considered that they wouldn't always be there for each other, to perpetually share in each others' lives until both of them are old and ready to look back instead of forward. Following a typically unsuccessful flashback where younger actors play the stars as children, Collette, Barrymore, director Catherine Hardwicke, and screenwriter Morwenna Banks dive into the present with a familiar comfort that makes the viewer feel like a third friend who is just as invested in both women and their relationship, while simultaneously setting up the terrifying uncertainty of whether Milly will survive her diagnosis. As someone who is constantly giving themselves pessimistic evaluations based on a fleeing ache or pain (a habit I'm sure I'm not alone in), Milly's shock and terror is overwhelmingly relatable.

That said, while cancer is the catalyst for the film's story, it's actually relegated to the background in favor of conflicts within Milly and Jess' friendship. In the middle of Milly's first round of chemotherapy, Jess discovers that in vitro fertilization has succeeded where traditional methods have failed -- she and Jago are about to welcome their first child. Unsure of how to intrude on Milly's struggles with her own successes, she keeps it a secret. Later, discontent brews between Milly and Kit stemming from Milly's own struggles with self-esteem, sending her on an emotional spiral involving a handsome barman (Tyson Ritter). Hardwicke and Banks deftly weave the individual experiences of their two protagonists together, providing context for their behavior that builds organically to a dramatic confrontation on the English Moors. By juggling the parallel, intersecting stories of these two women, we can sympathize with both perspectives, which grounds their fight in realism -- these sorts of struggles grow out of not being honest, forgiving too easily, missing or misinterpreting a crucial glance or gesture.

Cast-wise, Cooper and Considine are both lovely as husbands whose occasional frustration is also presented sympathetically even when their frustrations are expressed in angry or accusatory ways. Of course, the film would be nothing if Barrymore and Collette didn't have the requisite chemistry, and they do -- the aforementioned optimism comes through in their conversations, which are funny and full of laughter even when one of them is confessing or revealing something painful or serious. Although both women give great performances, the film is designed so that Jess' story supports Milly's. Unsurprisingly, Collette's performance is a knockout, generating so much vibrancy and luminosity that, like Jess, it's hard not to love Milly even as she veers into reckless abandon. Miss You Already captures the spirit of women like Milly, and the spirit of the kind of friend who would stick by that character through thick and thin.

The Blu-ray
Miss You Already keeps things simple: a photograph of the movie's two stars, sharing a laugh. Pretty straightforward (I'll never understand why designers can't flip a photo or find different one so that the actors are on the same side as their credits, although at least the text feels "associated" with the title rather than the photo). The one-disc release comes in an eco-friendly Blu-ray case, with an insert bearing the UltraViolet Digital HD copy code, and the entire thing slides inside a glossy slipcover with the same artwork.

The Video and Audio
Both Miss You Already's 2.39:1 1080p AVC video presentation and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 are satisfyingly crisp and detailed. As a drama, Miss You Already isn't exactly pushing the envelope on either the visual or aural front, mostly just living up to the expected level of atmosphere and detail that one expects from a new movie, shot on digital. Among the few stand-out details: the subtly changing color palette, which relates to both mood and weather, and the authentic sound of bars and parties that occur throughout the film. English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing and English and Spanish subtitles are also included.

The Extras
Six deleted scenes (18:15) are included. About half of them are fairly inconsequential, but a few stand out: another one of the film's running moments where Milly and Jess draw on the faces in a magazine together; what feels like the resolution to a moment in the film where Milly's daughter is upset; and a montage of other odds and ends, including what appears to be Milly's first encounter with Ace, and plenty of Jago playing the ukulele poorly.

"With Love: Making Miss You Already" (14:31) is a fun and friendly making-of featurette that illustrates the bond between Collette and Hardwicke when Hardwicke crashes Collette's interview to reminisce about going too far with Ritter. Pretty traditional overall, but lightened by the rapport between actor and director.

Two music videos are up next: "Crazy Ones" by Paloma Faith (4:18), and "There's a Place" by the All-American Rejects (4:59). The former feels like a throwback to the '90s, with Faith singing as clips from the movie play on a projector, while the latter was actually directed by Hardwicke during the making of Miss You Already, and features a brief cameo by Collette. It also features a brief introduction by Ritter, who is the lead singer of the All-American Rejects.

"On-Set Selfies" (0:45) is exactly as advertised, a slideshow of selfies taken by the cast and crew. Surprisingly, one of the meatiest and most interesting video extras is at the end of the list: "A Director's Lookbook For Milly's Party" (2:36), which is an annotated photo gallery in which Hardwicke outlines her entire process when it comes to scouting, planning, blocking, and shooting a scene. One of the more informative extras I've ever seen on a Blu-ray or DVD, just snuck in at the end of the video extras.

The last extra on the menu is a audio commentary by director Catherine Hardwicke and associate producers Jeff Toye and Jamie Holt. Hardwicke is a lively and animated commentator, blazing through details about the shoot and her choices as a director with very few pauses or breaks in between for Toye and Holt to chime in. Hardwicke is also very technically oriented, speaking at great length about tracking down locations, designing the look of costumes and sets, and how she tackled character through careful planning.

Trailers for Stonewall, Love and Mercy, Love the Coopers, Mr. Holmes, and promos for Epix and Tribeca Shortlist play before the main menu and are also accessible under the special features menu under "Also From Lionsgate". No trailer for Miss You Already is included.

Tough, funny, and deeply moving, Miss You Already is one of the best movies of 2015. Although the instinct will be to stuff the film into a particular box when summarizing what it's about -- the Buzzfeed pullquote on the back calling it "Beaches for 2015" might be accurate, but also arguably plays to preconcieved notions -- it's a universal story that tradtional labels will sell short. Highly recommended.<

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