01 March 2011

Movies: Date Night

Date Night http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1279935/

A New Jersey married couple, played by Steve Carell and Tina Fey, try to have dinner in a popular restaurant in Manhattan. They arrive late with no reservation and find there's no way they'll get a table, so they take an apparently absent couple's reservation.  Soon they are confused for the absent couple and inherit that couple's problems.

Sure this might be considered a romantic comedy - but it's primarily a comedy of mistaken identity and the hijinks that occur as a result (a farce) - the A story - coupled with a little more serious B story that follows a married couple rediscovering their love for each other.  I generally don't like recent romcoms because most of them reuse the same tired formula with the same go-to central actor/actress paired up with a new interest. However this is the kind of romcom I can handle.  Mostly because the film was funny and it didn't get bogged down in relationship drama.  The relationship was the B story, not the A story, which helped me considerably.

One thing that really stood out - Carell and Fey work really well together.  Each had their character quirks, their one-liners, their inappropriate outbursts, and at any given time either could take over as the strong player in a scene.  And the chemistry between the two characters worked - they didn't seem mismatched.
As much a comic force as Carell has become in films the past few years, Fey kept right up with him.  And it was an interesting pairing because, depending on the scene, the actors would trade the roles of "straight man (or foil)" and "comic" in a traditional comedy double act.  Contrast that to the pairing of Carell and Catherine Keener in "40 Year Old Virgin" where Carell is the "comic" and Keener is the "foil".

Another thing that stood out was a very successful wrapping of the farcical A story around the more realistic B story. The B story is one many married (or long term relationship) couples can identify with -- the marriage of years now seems routine and unexciting, and they now question if their marriage is in trouble like their other married friends who are now splitting up. The A story's improbable situations, absurdities, unrealistic events add up to a comedic wrapper that drives them along the path toward resolving the real-life B story issue.

The movie worked well because of the strength of the primary and the supporting cast.   It worked well as a farce (delicious cake), and it worked well because it was also heartwarming (icing on the delicious cake).  Plenty of funny situations, crazy dialog at times. Unfortunately some of the funny lines were used in the trailers and commercials, which kind of deflate the scenes they were clipped from because you know what's coming.

I really liked this film. If you enjoy a good farce, if you enjoy laughing at absurd situations, or even if you laugh at Steve Carell and/or Tina Fey, definitely see if you haven't already.

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