With Friends Like These


The word "frothy" comes to mind while watching Guy Friends. There's an effervescence to it, a bubbliness that you don’t often see in films these days. It's in love with its characters, its setting, and its clichés—and it uses a lot of clichés—in a way that is almost refreshing. It's lighter than air. You expect it to float off at any second.

Guy Friends is Jonathan Smith's "Woody," as in Allen: it's a paean to the lifestyle of upscale New Yorkers. Like Manhattan, it's shot in burnished tones of black and white. Like Manhattan, its credits are white type on a black background. Like Manhattan, it uses cocktail lounge jazz to underscore the whimsey of the action.

Jaime Sharma (Kavita Jariwala) is a single Indian/American Millennial whose relationship has ended. She announces her breakup on social media and is instantly deluged with proclamations of love by her male followers. They've adored her from afar (even the doorman), and now she’s available. But Jaime wants something more, and that comes in the person of a former college friend's significant other, Sandy (Katie Muldowney). Sandy challenges Jaime's views about male friendship and about herself. Guy Friends is not a coming-out movie. It's too Mary Tyler Moore for that. It's about true friendship and how to achieve it in today’s dating scene.

Director Jonathan Smith has solid comic timing, paying off the setups of his script, and the story co-written by Chris Siemasko. Guy Friends was shot during the pandemic for less than $5000.00. His actors are lesser-knowns but not amateurs, and Mr. Smith deftly blocks and edits to disguise any awkwardness.

Kavita Jariwala, who is also Mr. Smith's future sister-in-law (!), carries off the part of Jamie well. The black-and-white cinematography highlights her striking features while equalizing the visual effect of the actors. Skin color becomes gray tones, which masks the paucity of ethnic diversity in the casting. This is a very white movie, which ultimately doesn't reflect the reality it celebrates.

Guy Friends feels like a first film, but it is actually Jonathan Smith's fourth. It's surprising, then, that its theme is so thin. His other films, notably The Worst Year of My Life (2012) and Batsh*t Bride (2019), have more heft, diving deeper into contemporary attitudes, but still in a richly comic way. Mr. Smith leans into his actors' strengths, even in the unfortunately titled Breast Movie (2010). He overreaches sometimes, resorting to tropes like montages of frolicking happy people set to pop music. But it’s always better to overreach than fall short.

We've often walked down this street before with Woody, Nicole Holofcener, Whit Stillman, Eric Shaeffer, et al., filmmakers who find the social mores of Manhattan fascinating.

But they also find themselves endlessly fascinating. Theirs are niche movies, designed to appeal primarily to the people they portray, and so are destined to languish on the lower shelves of a streamer like Tubi (that’s where to find Jonathan Smith's earlier films).


Guy Friends. Directed by Jonathan Smith. Released by Freestyle Digital Media and Vile Henchman Productions. 2024. In theaters and on VOD. 85 minutes.

Add new comment