First Date

****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

First Date
"One of the most tightly written films of the year, this is also one of the funniest." | Photo: Manuel Crosby

Going out with a girl for the first time in your life is never easy. Mike (Tyson Brown) has had a crush on Kelsey (Shelby Duclos) for ages. When his best friend finally persuades him to call her and ask for a date, he’s overwhelmed by her acceptance. There’s just one snag: her choice of words suggests that she expects him to pick her up in a car. He doesn’t have a car. So he scrapes together all the money he can and goes to meet a shady man who is offering one for sale on the internet. It’s a ’65 Chrysler in such poor condition that it’s amazing that he makes it down the street, but there’s more to this car than meets the eye. Before he knows it, the shy teenager finds himself having to fend off assassins, drug dealers, corrupt police officers and more. There’s big money at play but all he’s concerned about is being at Kelsey’s door on time.

If this sounds like the sort of set-up which could go horribly wrong in the execution, that’s because it usually does, but not this time. Against the odds, writer/directors Manuel Crosby and Darren Knapp have managed to get almost everything right, even as everything goes wrong for their protagonist. One of the most tightly written films of the year, this is also one of the funniest. It displays a sharp wit throughout but also knows when to step back and make room for emotion. Beautifully choreographed action sequences give it a pulsing energy and it manages to sustain the pace all the way through.

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At the centre of the action yet, for most of the running time, completely oblivious as to what’s going on, Mike displays the kind of dazed innocence typical of more conventional teen romances. Though Duclos is underused, she works well as the kind of girl who finds that endlessly appealing yet has no real idea how to communicate with such a person. Their tender romance gets little room to breathe as they are plunged into increasingly absurd situations, but this nicely mirrors the reality of many people’s lives at that age, when all life’s big events are controlled by other people. Its contrast with the violence of the broader plot generates humour yet also allows this darkly playful film to retain some soul. Because Brown keeps us feeling for Mike, the film is much more engaging than others of its ilk.

To say much more would be to risk spoiling a rollercoaster ride which is full of unlikely twists and turns. It shows little concern with realism, yet, curiously, depicts certain aspects of organised crime more realistically than many more serious films. Its surfeit of supporting characters means that they’re not all very well developed, but key figures, such as Nicole Berry’s droll police officer, work well. And whilst there’s something old fashioned about the young people’s approach to life, that allows Crosby and Knapp to play with the form of nostalgic cinema, inviting viewers to romanticise a story which then rips such notions to shreds.

First Date may not be deep, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s skilfully put together and entertaining throughout.



First Date is available on digital now, from 101 Films

Reviewed on: 17 Jan 2022
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Conned into buying a shady '65 Chrysler, Mike's first date with the girl-next door, Kelsey, implodes as he finds himself targeted by criminals, cops, and a crazy cat lady. A night fuelled by desire, bullets and burning rubber makes any other first date seem like a walk in the park.
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Sundance 2021

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