An amiable, seriocomic high-school-reunion movie, 10 Years succeeds in pulling off a fine varsity talent show. Although some performers, notably Channing Tatum, who also produced, and Ari Graynor, are more appealing than others, the film is admirably consistent in its nostalgia-averse exploration of the uncertainties that define one’s late twenties.
A decade after graduating from Lake Howell High School (in a never-specified city and state, though the film was shot in Albuquerque, New Mexico), a group of a dozen or so former classmates, scattered around the world, fly or drive in to reconvene at a local boutique hotel, where they clutch drink tickets and head-bob to Fatboy Slim. Married with kids and still rooted in their hometown, high school sweethearts Cully (Chris Pratt), an unreformed churl now selling cars, and Sam (Graynor), a former cheerleader who spends most of her days cleaning up after her two toddlers and piggy spouse, have the shortest commute to the reunion; Scott (Scott Porter), a resident of Japan for the past several years, has the longest.
Beyond geographical distance, these millennials, just past their quarter-life, are at various stages of personal happiness and professional success. Most have settled into mid-level white-collar jobs, like mortgage broker Jake (Tatum), affianced to Jess (Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Channing’s real-life bride), one of several romantic partners/outsiders who gamely put up with a roomful of strangers and their adolescent in-jokes. Reeves (Oscar Isaac) is the bona fide celebrity of the class of ’02, a pop star whose biggest hit turns out to have been written for the woman he has had a crush on since physics class (Kate Mara, whose alarmingly cadaverous frame is shared by a few other female cast mates). Senior-year sex bomb Anna (Lynn Collins), on the other hand, still struts, poses, and flirts—a display of bravado masking the grim realities at home.
So over the course of a boozy night filled with karaoke and awkward attempts to make amends, 10 Years compassionately presents a series of recognizable young-adult crises: strained relationships, poorly timed rekindled romantic feelings, steady-if-soul-crushing employment. The warmth of the film stems from a key prior collaboration. Although 10 Years is writer-director Jamie Linden’s helming debut, it marks his second time working with Tatum after 2010’s Dear John, a Nicholas Sparks adaptation scripted by Linden that first showed the depths and complexities of the actor’s on-screen butch reticence. Now one of American cinema’s most appealing male leads, Tatum has only gotten better since then. In 21 Jump Street, his first movie this year about revisiting high school and his first leading role in a comedy, he brought a touching pathos to his meathead part, the once-popular jock struggling to fit in long after graduating. Tatum displays similar insecurities and regrets in 10 Years as Jake, anointed prom king back in the day (he and his would-be queen, played by Rosario Dawson, never made it to the dance, for reasons revealed later) looks at a wall of high school photos and can only rue, “Shit, why does it feel so long ago?”
That nagging sense of disappointment and the increased awareness of time passing—and of one compromise too many made before the age of 30—is also nicely handled by Graynor, who has been almost as busy as Tatum this year (this is her third film to be released in six weeks). Her slow burn as Cully drinks himself into a stupor, terrorizing anew those schoolmates he aggressively tries to apologize to for decade-old assaults, corrosively reveals the pent-up rage of a spouse disgusted by her mate—and herself for continuing to put up with his awful behavior.
Although it bounces nimbly from character to character and dyad to dyad, 10 Years is parsimonious with the screen time given to its nonwhite actors: The always-welcome Anthony Mackie is underused, and Eiko Nijo, who plays Scott’s Japanese wife, utters not one (non-karaoked) word. Despite this stinginess, 10 Years is an uncommonly magnanimous project, kind not only to its stumbling characters but also to audiences tired of films pruned of unruly emotions.