Dating & New York
Reviewed for Shockya.com by Abe Friedtanzer
Director: Jonah Feingold
Writer: Jonah Feingold
Cast: Jaboukie Young-White, Francesca Reale, Catherine Cohen, Brian Muller, Jerry Ferrara
Screened at: Critics’ link, NY, 9/9/21
Opens: September 10th, 2021
Not everyone has the same luck finding a partner, and not everyone wants to find a partner in the same way. Dating apps allow people to search for a compatible match from the comfort of their own homes and by sharing only what they want to, which can be both a good and a bad thing. Exaggerating physical features or outright lying about a particular trait may lead to a disastrous first date, but ultimately the information contained in a person’s profile is much less significant than what behavior they actually exhibit in person.
Wendy (Francesca Reale) and Milo (Jaboukie Young-White) meet in New York City via an app called Meet Cute and find that they get along very well. When they both don’t follow up on the energy they had in that first meeting, they reunite with something very different in mind. Wendy proposes a contract for them to be friends with benefits, with any legitimate expression of love absolutely forbidden. As these stories tend to go, romance will eventually find them, something that they both know and dread since it has to mean the end of their carefully-arranged and seemingly impenetrable arrangement.
There have been hundreds, if not thousands, of romantic comedies about people who try for something other than a traditional relationship, and also about love in NYC. That doesn’t give this film great odds in the originality department, but it very effectively uses the established tropes of such stories to drive its plot. Wendy and Milo have seen what has befallen others in movies and in real life, and yet they are still hopeless to avoid the same mistakes, even if they know that they’re coming and that they can’t possibly be the only people capable of avoiding what seems to happen to everyone else.
The arrangement that Wendy and Milo have created is complicated by the fact that their respective best friends, Jessie (Catherine Cohen) and Hank (Brian Muller), are actually dating, and they’re much more set on serious aims. Any good romantic lead needs a sidekick, and Jessie and Hank serve as the perfect foils for their two best buds. Their commentary and reactions to the situations that make much more sense to Wendy and Milo are among the most entertaining parts of the film, which also includes humorous scenes of failed dates with others that bomb for various insignificant reasons.
The chemistry between Reale and Young-White is what ultimately powers this film, and audiences may agree that they’re better suited to be friends than romantic partners. The way that they play off each other is fantastic, and it’s so much fun to watch them banter. They seem almost to know where fate will inevitably take them, but that doesn’t stop them from doubling down and trying to resist it to the best of their abilities.
Writer-director Jonah Feingold’s debut feature is one that, technologically, must exist in the present moment, but it does possess a marvelous timelessness that will alternately make audiences long for the contradictory scope and simplicity of New York and doubt its believability. While early scenes indicate the entirety of the film may take place on phone screens, this film is all about switching up its cinematic devices, and like its narrative, which isn’t wholly original and could easily have been a dud, it all manages to be fresh and fun, equally expected and satisfying.
Story – B+
Acting – A-
Technical – B+
Overall – B+