Ah, the teenaged first date. A combination of awkward small talk, sweaty palms, a carefully selected outfit, perhaps a car, fun and interesting conversation, excitement, nervousness, adrenaline, anticipation and (perhaps) action. So, too, does 2021’s First Date possess many, if not all, of these first date tropes.
The first feature film from writer-directors Manuel Crosby and Darren Knapp has qualities reminiscent of long-established Hollywood writers and directors with one in particular, and this is not a bad thing. To write and release a good debut film with inspiration from well-known zany 90s and 00s classics filled with off-kilter characters and violence, and not have it dismissed as a cheap copy is no easy feat, and Crosby and Knapp have accomplished this.
Mike (Tyson Brown) has a long-time crush on his long-time classmate and girl next door, Kelsey (Shelby Duclos), but is too shy to ask her out. During a bike ride with his best friend Brett (Josh Fesler), they watch as Kelsey’s neighbour, a jock-archetype, asks her out while showing off his shiny car; back at Mike’s house, fast-talking Brett persuades him to call Kelsey and arrange a date. Mike does, and that would have been the end of the story, but Brett insists that Mike needs to buy a car to be able to pick Kelsey up for their date. Shy to the point of rarely completing full sentences sans interruption, Mike is quickly sold a dumpy 1965 Chrysler by another fast talker, the jumpy and pushy Dennis (Scott E. Noble). This turns out to be a purchase that sets the story in motion for the rest of the film, bringing us on a literal ride of police, confusion, violence, peculiar characters and comedy, all while Mike is just trying to get to his first date with Kelsey.
Although there is a scene or two that goes on too long, and Mike could have had one or two higher notches of self-esteem a bit sooner than he eventually did, these grievances are minor, especially for a pair of writer/directors’ first feature film. First Date delivers scenes that are surprising, entertaining, enjoyable and, after some time, satisfyingly action-packed. The supporting characters who crop up during Mike’s journey keep the momentum going and keep the story twisting and turning, and the clear homage to a certain director again does not feel cheap. Instead, it is exciting to see filmmakers experimenting with off-kilter and comical scenes with incongruous settings, characters and dialogue (imagine, for example, a couple of gun-toting “bad guys” hotly debating the morality of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men).
First Date is a fun film and a memorable debut from Crosby and Knapp that deserves a watch. It was an official Sundance 2021 selection and will make its UK debut on 17 January, 2022 on digital.
Crime, Comedy | 15 | Digital HD | 17th January 2022 (UK) | 101 Films | Dir.Manuel Crosby, Darren Knapp | Tyson Brown, Shelby Duclos, Jesse Janzen, Scott E.Noble, Josh Fesler,