Friday, 21 June 2013

Date Night

Date Night is a film that I didn’t see at the cinema because little about it appealed to me. The premise seemed weak and having yet to discover 30 Rock, I was unaware of female lead Tina Fey. Having recently watched it when it was on television though, I was pleasantly surprised by a film which is much funnier than I had anticipated.

Phil and Claire Foster (Steve Carell and Tina Fey) are your typical middle aged, middle income family, living in suburban America. Their lives are driven by their children and slight financial difficulty which is imposed by the recent recession. Tired of their usual, hastily organised date nights, the couple decide to head into New York City with the hope of snagging a highly sort after table in a swanky Tribeca restaurant. Unable to book under their own name, Phil takes the reservations of another couple who fail to show and their mistaken identity leads them down a path of deception and danger when they discover that a gangster is out for blood.

Date Night is driven by some likeable leads, delivering highly improvised and very funny dialogue around the conceit of a story which is fairly basic but something I haven’t seen before. The movie occasionally runs out of steam and relies on silly action set pieces to reinvigorate the plot but there’s also a lot in the film which is relatable to people who are in long term relationships.

The story is improbable but I let it go because it leads to funny and sometimes thought provoking places. There is a car chase which I wasn’t keen on but it’s quite fun and features one of the many great cameos. The plot is a basic tale of mistaken identity and the couple struggle to clear their name and put the misunderstanding to bed while getting deeper and deeper into trouble with every step. I didn’t really care about who was chasing the couple or why and the further along the film went, the less I cared still. Despite this I enjoyed a lot of what happened and think this is largely down to the central actors.

Both Tina Fey and Steve Carell come from the Saturday Night Live style of improv comedy and I find that this is hard to get right in a film. Often it‘s overdone or feels like the actors are trying too hard but Carell and Fey are masters of the art. There are numerous, hilarious scenes in which the two riff off each other and the rest of the cast to create some great lines and funny moments. I laughed much more during this film than in any other comedy since I saw Ted and there have been few mainstream Hollywood comedies which have made me laugh so hard in years. It’s obvious as to just how much of the dialogue was improve driven during the closing credits in which a gag reel shows some of the alternative and ruined takes. Alongside the leads are several cameos, most of which were welcome. Mark Wahlberg has a small part as a handsome, shirtless guy and this brings out some of Steve Carell’s best lines. Wahlberg himself is fine but he’s capable of much more. A highlight of the movie was a scene featuring Mila Kunis and James Franco. The two actors are great together in an extremely funny scene.

Something I enjoyed about the movie was the way in which it looked at long term relationships. I’m a few days shy of my ten year anniversary with my girlfriend as I write this and the film spoke to me about the difficulty of remaining romantic and spontaneous as well as the monotony of daily life but at it’s heart it showed that after all those years and with peripheral things causing distractions, the couple, like myself, were still very much in love and perfectly suited. A problem I had with the movie was the product placement. This is something I’ve been noticing a lot in the movies I’m watching recently and it’s something I really, really hate to see.

Overall then Date Night was a success. It’s funny and features two likeable leads on top form, surrounded by several fun cameos. There’s plenty of problems with it and it’s far from perfect but it captured both the feeling of being in a relationship and the comedy perfectly and I enjoyed it a lot.  

GFR 8/10   

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