New York Indie Comedy Guy Friends Is an Ambitious (And Funny) Exploration of the Genre

If someone were to have asked me fifteen minutes in what I thought about Guy Friends, I would have given a very different answer to now. At that point, the movie appeared to be a strange mish-mash of film conventions. The protagonist, Jaime Sharma, was an oblivious pretty girl who was surrounded daily by fawning male admirers. She was, quite frankly, too perfectly composed amidst everything that was going on. The dialogue was clunky (“Roger had his first kid this weekend” struck me as a particularly odd line), and no characters seemed to be acting in ways that really made sense. Certainly, none of it really made sense to me.

It was at approximately sixteen minutes that it all started making sense to me! Jaime was meant to be oblivious: she was a perfect romcom heroine – heck, she was basically a Disney princess, something emphasised by her long flowing dresses which really don’t seem very practical on the streets of Manhattan – but one accidentally stuck in a Farrelly brothers-type universe. Of course there were a lot of crossed wires and misunderstandings going on with all those male admirers! And sure, sometimes the dialogue was a bit on the wooden side, but now that I was getting familiar with the characters, it was also idiosyncratic and maybe, just maybe, those line readings were supposed to be odd. And that’s when I realised Guy Friends was going to be a really fun and at times quite ambitious exploration of the comedy genre. Sure, at times it could be a little rough around the edges, but that’s what you get when you’re in new territory.

And indeed, Jaime is quite the fish out of water. An underused personal assistant who aspires to study architecture, our beautiful protagonist unwittingly and unknowingly charms just about every man she comes into contact with – other than her old college buddy, Ted, who is head-over-heels in love with his own girlfriend, Sandy. When Jaime’s boyfriend Patrick suddenly and unexpectedly dumps her, she soon discovers that all the so-called guy friends in her life have actually been pining after her, and she comes to realise that she might need to befriend some girls for once to gain some perspective on her situation.

Director Jonathan Smith and his crew have brought their own style to this venture: shot in black and white, Guy Friends establishes itself early and regularly as a New York indie project through its use of familiar Manhattan locations and characteristic piano music, which sets the scene well but times is maybe a little repetitive. Shot for less than $5,000 during the pandemic, there is also considerable crossover in the use of cast and crew, and perhaps this is part of what lends the film a strong sense of camaraderie and familiarity between the performers.

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Kavita Jariwala, Justin Clark and Katie Muldowney.

The performers certainly bring a lot to Guy Friends themselves. I feel I must mention that Jaime is an almost deceptively challenging role, as a character who has been plucked wholesale out of another genre: so it’s an impressive feat that first-time actress Kavita Jariwala managed to communicate this to the audience. Jaime’s regular demand and Jariwala’s pitch-perfect delivery of her demand to play “Duty Calls” on the X-Box is a perfect encapsulation of this. Justin Clark as Ted does a great job as the reluctant straight guy when Jaime and Sandy’s antics get out of control. Meanwhile, Katie Muldowney as Sandy steals the show as a relatable, at times crass, and extremely likeable best friend character who finally gets a starring role.

It is also, if I haven’t made it clear already, very funny. When the two disparate aspects of the film collide and Jaime realises she’s actually the lead in There’s Something About Jaime, there are plenty of laughs to be had from the ongoing fallout. With Smith himself identifying that the first draft of Guy Friends was the result of him “mocking my own courtship habits and foibles,” before turning it into a story of female friendship, it is clear he knows what he is doing. Guy Friends plays around with genre in a way that occasionally doesn’t entirely work, but was definitely worth the risk. The reward is a funny, off kilter and surprisingly sweet story which I hope will get the attention it deserves.

Guy Friends is available from today, May 31st, on Amazon, Apple TV, YouTube Movies, and other major home entertainment platforms.