First Date, The

In the August 2006 issue of Rogue Cinema I reviewed a total of four films created by the independent studio Fleet Street Films. The first three, a trilogy labeled as “the film truth collection”, received mixed to downright negative reactions, while the fourth, a silent comedy called Monday Morning, saw a decidedly more positive review. Though the issue has already been published online, I did receive another movie from Fleet Street recently and so I’ve decided to run it through the ol’ critique process.

Titled The First Date, this 15-minute film is another silent comedy, featuring the usual stable of actors found in Fleet Street’s production resume. The most important name to note, however, is Nate Edwards, who played the hapless hero of Monday Morning and returns here for even more physical slapstick shenanigans. Edwards is very good at abusing himself all for the sake of a laugh, hurling his body in any and every direction while making it look easy. Easily the highlight of The First Date is watching Edwards trying desperately to take off an extremely oversized shirt and getting trapped in the process.

What really hurts The First Date is its story, which when compared to that of Monday Morning is much too linear. Whereas in Morning there was a specific goal our hero was working toward (Edwards had to get to work), this time there’s an actual plot, leaving a lot less room for new gags and fresh situations. In Date, Edwards spends his day off at the park, where he stops a purse-snatcher and weasels a date out of his good will in the process. The rest of the short is then dedicated to watching the date, which of course goes horribly awry, but every now and then we go back to the purse snatcher, who has his own adventures (which are not at all interesting, I’m sorry to say).

The open-ended premise of Morning compared to the more scripted, structured layout of The First Date is not really a comparison from the start. Date fails because instead of a single task there are now many arbitrary plot points to overcome, and this is not how silent comedy works. Original silent comedies, such as Safety Last!, were engrossing because there was the thinnest of setup and a bulk of jokes to fill up time. We were willing to watch these feature-length movies because they were so free form in creation. Also, title cards were used sparingly, whereas in Date they pop up way too much and only interrupt the action. Eventually what little steam the movie earns is drained, leaving the camera set firmly in place as we watch a seemingly endless shot of Edwards throwing things and acting goofy. It comes off as tired after a while, not fun, and it affected me as a viewer. Also, while I found Edwards to be innocently doofy in Morning, for some reason his character is presented as a bit of a pervert here, peaking down blouses and otherwise trying to get as close to his date as possible. I’m sure this was meant to be funny, but the comedy felt a little too modern in this respect.

The First Date shows that perhaps director Anthony Spadaccini should have left well enough alone when he made Monday Morning. The first film was a cute homage to a bygone era, but Date reeks of nothing more than returning to an old joke and repeating it just for the sake of repetition. My advice: Move on to other forms of comedy, since continuing to mine the silent era for material will only result in further redundance.

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