A bittersweet high school reunion tale, Jamie Linden’s 10 Years amuses and charms viewers with a star-studded cast and multiple intertwining plotlines. Still, the film lacks in synchronicity and overall motivation.
Though the film devotes substantial time to the abundant subplots, the main story follows Jake (Channing Tatum) as he reunites with his high school buddies and old flame at his 10-year reunion, with his stunning girlfriend Jess (Jenna Dewan) in tow. Madly in love with Jess, Jake plans to propose but can’t seem to muster up the courage — an impediment that is further complicated when he reunites with his high school sweetheart Mary (Rosario Dawson) for the first time since graduating.
Tatum, adding yet another swoon-worthy leading role to his seemingly endless repertoire, succeeds as the sensitive yet manly Jake — a prototype that Tatum is well acquainted with. His love for real-life wife Dewan (cue the awws) is certainly reflected in their on-screen chemistry and, though neither character is particularly quirky or unique, they sure are nice to look at.
A flurry of Jake’s old high school friends and acquaintances, some of whom the film explores in abundant subplots, also join Jake, Jess and Mary at the reunion.
Cully (Chris Pratt), the former jock whose mission is to atone for his callous behavior in high school, creates a spectacle of drunken embarrassment — much to the horror of his fed up high school girlfriend and now-wife, Sam (Ari Graynor). While Pratt’s performance as the boorish Cully is spot-on, there is something tragic and depressing about his relationship with his wife, who gives off the vibe that she hates her life but knows nothing is ever going to change.
Then there is Marty (Justin Long) who seems to have continued right where he left off in high school — in futile pursuit of the stunning Anna (Lynn Collins), “miss popularity” in high school and still a knockout 10 years later. This plotline, however, also ends in a depressing twist when Anna’s seemingly glamourous and jovial life turns out to be nothing but a facade.
The most successful plotline occurs in an enchanting second-chance romance between band-geek-turned-rock-star Reeves (Oscar Isaac) and the quietly beautiful Elise (Kate Mara), who happens to be the only girl at the reunion not fawning over Reeves. The juxtaposition of his fame and heartthrob status with her total disregard for attention creates a beautiful chemistry between Isaac and Mara. The understated, subtle performances by both parties are exquisite — beyond that of Tatum and Dewan, even. Mara is flawless as Elise, with unmatched beauty and quiet fire. It’s a no-brainer that she would win the hearts of rock stars. Isaac, a rising star in young Hollywood, shines as the charming yet empty Reeves, bringing a coolness and charisma to the character along with a singing voice that wows the listener.
Though it does succumb to many clichés associated with any “reunion” film, 10 Years is, at its core, endearing and heartfelt. Despite a few moments of comic relief, most often resulting from Pratt’s drunken antics, the film barely qualifies as a comedy; in fact, the overall tone is unmistakably melancholy. All the comedy and moments of joy come from reflections the characters have on their glory days, but for the most part — with the exception of Jake and Jess — they seem a bit disappointed with the way their present lives have turned out.
The film’s success results from the subtle and meticulously crafted dynamics that inevitably arise among a group of grown adults seeing old friends for the first time in a decade. While Cully’s vulgarity and inebriated attempts at apologies become outlandish and painful to watch, the subtle flirtations between Reeves and Elise are cinematic gold. Similarly, while Marty’s desperate attempts to woo Anna play out as a hackneyed caricature, the moments that capture the look on Jess’ face as she holds a photo of Jake and Mary from back in the day are as heartbreaking as the simple moments and exchanges between Jake and Mary themselves.
Still, the relationship between the past sweethearts doesn’t match their depictions in the movie’s introduction, marketing or trailer. There is never any question of whether or not Jake’s feelings for Mary will resurface and he will consider leaving Jess for his ex-girlfriend. In fact, his love for Jess only seems to grow and intensify throughout the film, while Mary remains happily married. Rather than consider the possibility of reigniting an old flame, the two spend the evening catching up with one another, reflecting on the past but — more importantly — gushing about their present happiness. On this point, the movie generates little suspense.
Though the lack of conflict in Jake’s relationship with Jess initially seems safe and monotonous, there is a subtle yet delightful beauty in the ability of Jake and Mary to appreciate what they had while accepting that their relationship has become a thing of the past. Though many of the characters exude a blase attitude about their current affairs compared to their aspirations from high school, the relationship between Jake and Mary provides a redemptive alternative: exalting the simple joys in life over dreams of grandeur.
All in all, 10 Years succeeds for what it is — a charming yet melancholy glimpse into a reunion of people whose lives might have not turned out to be all they imagined back in high school. Nothing more, nothing less.