Wednesday, July 18 , 2018, 3:02 pm | Mostly Cloudy 70º


Cinema in Focus: ‘You Again’

The film explores the often painful realities of high school, and later the need for apologies and forgiveness

3 Stars — Thought-Provoking

Comedy is the art of taking the subtle and making it humorously obvious. That is what director Andy Fickman and writer Moe Jelline do to the world of dysfunctional female relationships in their film You Again.

Suggesting that the experiences of high school can haunt a person for years, the film explores how this happens in the life of a young woman, as well as her middle-age mother and her elderly grandmother.

Although high school is difficult for most of us, it was devastating for Marni (Kristen Bell). Plagued with adolescent acne, braces and horn-rimmed glasses, Marni becomes the object of head cheerleader JJ’s (Odette Yustman) bullying arrogance. Helping her overcome the attack on her self-esteem, Marni’s brother Will (James Wolk) provides life-changing encouragement.

As a young adult, Marni has remade herself into a successful, confident and beautiful professional woman. But her past catches up with her when she discovers that her brother becomes engaged to marry JJ, now using her full name Joanna.

Although this would be enough of a set up for the comedy, the plot thickens when Marni’s mother, Gail (Jamie Lee Curtis), is also confronted with her past when she meets Joanna’s aunt Ramona (Sigourney Weaver), who turns out to be her arch rival from high school as well. It is this dual storyline that creates the humor and lessons in the tale.

The lessons learned are helpful: No amount of good deeds can make up for the bad ones if we don’t take responsibility for what we’ve done and reconcile with the people we hurt; apologies are always necessary when we’ve disrespected or betrayed someone; forgiveness sets us free from the trauma we experienced years earlier; honesty is necessary in a healthy relationship; and everyone does deserve a second chance.

The casting and writing of the film are excellent, but the lack of any sense of spiritual strength or guidance in healing these traumatic relationship breakdowns causes the film to lack depth or insight. But that is not to say that You Again doesn’t provide a redemptive tale with forgiveness and reconciliation as its final word.

The disruption in the lives of the characters due to their continuing struggle with one another portrays a powerful lesson about the capacity of trauma and guilt to disrupt our lives. It is only as they become honest and caring with one another that they find peace. That is true in all of our lives.


» When Mark (Victor Garber) confronts his wife and daughter over their outrageous antics, he states that he is “frightened and confused by their behavior.” Did you experience their behavior as frightening or confusing or did you identify with them?

» When Joanna loses both of her parents at such a young age, she explains that she looked at her life and wanted to become a person they would be proud of. Do you believe that living to please our parents (whether living or dead) is enough motivation to change our lives or does relying on God’s strength and guidance provide more help?

» When Marni reveals the truth about Joanna as a teenager, she betrays both herself and her brother. What would you have done if you had been in her place?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through Stripe below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >