First Date – Sundance London Film Festival 2021 – Film Review
First dates are stressful enough without the added complications of being cheated whilst buying a new car quickly for the date and getting in the crossfire of underground criminal activities. But, as outlandish as this may seem, these are just a fraction of the events that occur to Mike in First Date across an amusing night when all he wants is to get ready for his date with Kelsey, the girl next door. First Date attempts to straddle too many genres to farcical effect and will therefore be a light-hearted option for that Friday night film or date night.
Tyson Brown’s Mike effortlessly manages to carry this tale from its rom-com, coming of age genesis through to its high speed chase gun toting narrative reminiscent of Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire. The premise is straightforward but the unusual circumstances occurring over the course of the night provide Brown with sufficient range to convey that teenage angst initially before demonstrating courage in the face of danger. For unknown reasons Mike decides to conceal the true nature of events to Kelsey which, despite being contrived, provides the film with an extended, hilarious plot device.
First Date is a film to be consumed at face value as it seeks to entertain and succeeds. There are numerous film references scattered throughout the film with familiar nightmarish tropes such as being a black person stopped by police in the US and a misfit band of robbers for whom it is difficult to decide whether to feel sympathy. Indeed, there are caricatures for the villains but this adds to the film’s charm during moments that may have been otherwise bleak.
At times, First Date seems undecided as to the direction that it wishes to follow and is unable to commit fully to its subject matter. This does mean that the film as a whole is disjointed and confused as it tries to please too many people. Equally, the characters are mainly one-dimensional however, one distinguishing feature is that Kelsey as Mike’s love interest does have a separate personality carved out with her own ambitions.
First Date’s deadpan humour is certainly a selling point throughout the film and perhaps this aspect required greater focus. The film as a whole succeeds within its comical scenes as a film that does not take itself too seriously and subverts many film genres.
First Date flourishes in its comic portrayal of stereotypes in its quest to be a film that defies genres. This ultimately proves to be distracting but the engaging performances from Brown as Mike and Shelby Duclos’ Kelsey ensure that the audience’s attention is held during the film’s moments of intrigue and chemistry. There are underlying sub-themes concerning the dynamic of the buddy cops and whilst the film presents these nuances they effectively become lost in this pot of unconnected narratives.
First Date’s overall message is obfuscated, aside from the obvious first date nerves, and as such it not a film to over-analyse but merely to sit back, enjoy and laugh to your heart’s content. Perhaps, First Date aims to show us to look beyond the veneer and to believe in people despite being presented with unusual explanations for not fulfilling expectations on dates or other scenarios. But, a less convoluted directional approach, from co-directors Manuel Crosby and Darren Knapp, to such storytelling in First Date would have created an impact and seems to have been an unfortunate missed opportunity for this entertaining tale.