Guys and Girls Can’t Be Friends (2016) – By Philip Smolen


Ben (Ben Solenberger) is a 20-something young man growing up in Virginia. He works with his father (Stephen Tobolowsky) at the family flower shop making floral deliveries every day. At night he hangs out with his two buddies Bill (Nick Burr) and Mike (James Camery). Everyone is in a steady relationship except Ben. He hasn’t had any luck with women recently, so he’s been kind of down. But at a local party Ben sees pretty Julie (Emily Davenport) a girl he’s had a crush on for years. He summons up his courage and goes over to talk to her. A few days later, Ben delivers flowers to Julie that are from her old boyfriend. Ben asks Julie out and they start dating. As the spring turns to summer, Ben and Julie see more and more of each other. Their relationship deepens and Ben couldn’t be happier. However, just when things are going well, the couple goes through a few bumps in the road and must decide if they should stay together or not.

“Guys and Girls Can’t Be Friends” marks the feature-length film debut for director James Camery and this movie has a unique take on the traditional rom-com. The screenplay (by Camery and star Ben Solenberger) tells the relationship story from the man’s point of view. Unlike many other rom-coms Ben is the center of the movie.

Camery and Solenberger successfully capture the awkwardness and shyness of the dating game. Ben’s been head over heels for Julie since they were in high school and he’s thrilled that she’s going out with him. Ben doesn’t want to blow his chances with her so he’s always seeking her approval for their dates. Julie has been wounded a few times in her relationships, but she finds Ben sweet and vulnerable and this part of Ben appeals to her.

The film has a great ensemble cast and while Ben Solenberger is solid as Ben and Emily Davenport is splendid as Julie, it’s the veteran supporting cast that helps the movie spring to life. Character actor Stephen Tobolowsky is perfect as Ben’s concerned father. It’s a panic watching him as he constantly asks Ben how he’s doing and then offers him little bits of parental advice. And Camery and company deserve kudos for casting the great Clint Howard as well. Ron’s younger brother brings the right amount of zaniness to his character, the owner of a local dinosaur mini golf course where Ben and Julie spend a lot of time.

“Guys and Girls Can’t Be Friends” is an efficient indie flick that offers an inventive twist on the traditional guy-girl romance theme: it centers its story on an emotionally sensitive male who only wants to find his one true love. That makes the movie highly unusual and surprisingly satisfying.

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