Judge Clark Douglas loves blind dates. They can never tell when he's about to eat them.
First date, second chance.
"Everything will be alright."
Facts of the Case
Don (Stanley Tucci, Julie & Julia) and Janna (Patricia Clarkson, Six Feet Under) have been married for a long time. However, their marriage has grown somewhat stale. They no longer feel they have much in common; they can't "do anything together." So, in an attempt to keep things fresh and alive, the couple meets each other on a series of blind dates. On each date, Don and Janna play different characters. Is it just something to do, or is the couple subtly working through some complicated issues via these characters?
Based on a film by the late Dutch director Theo Van Gogh, Stanley Tucci's remake of Blind Date is a film in which character development serves as a substitute for a plot. The basic set-up of this little 80-minute film is very simple: a married couple goes out on blind dates and pretends they are people who have never met each other before. For the most part, all the film has to offer is a series of these dates, which proceed with varying levels of success. Likewise, the scenes themselves reach varying levels of success.
The film may sound like a somewhat dull talking heads piece, but it will only play that way if you aren't paying close attention as you watch. By no means should you simply accept the idea that everything the film has to offer can be found on the surface. If that were the case, the movie would be an immensely frustrating and irrelevant experience. You have to look a little deeper…a lot deeper actually, considering that the opening narration (by the couple's daughter, who remains unseen throughout the entire film) only sets up a few basic facts (and not necessarily the ones we particularly want to know right off the bat). You'll need to look between the lines for almost everything else, which makes the film both a pleasure and a slightly exasperating experience.
The most challenging thing about watching Blind Date for the first time is attempting to figure out just how subtle the film's playing field is. You may hear a line and wonder whether you should simply let it slide or attempt to glean meaning from it. You see a gesture and wonder whether there was some significance to it. You suspect that some of the recurring themes in the stories Don and Janna tell each other may be variations on things that happened in real life. Will all of your mental work and anguish be rewarded with some sort of revelation at the film's conclusion? I'll never tell, though I can certainly see plenty of positive and negatives to either option.
All of the encounters between the couple occur in the small club where Don works full-time as a magician. As such, the material has a very stage-bound feel to it, but Tucci and Clarkson do not treat this material as a play. Their performances are too improvisational, too willing to wander in long silences free of movement or language. This probably wouldn't work on the stage, but on film we are permitted to examine the participants from a more intimate angle. Tucci also attempts to make the material a bit more cinematic with airy, atmospheric shots of the club that serve as punctuation marks between the encounters. Tucci is a good filmmaker who generally makes small, character-driven movies, and this one is perhaps his smallest and most character-driven.
Fortunately, he's also a nuanced actor who is capable of playing a challenging part like this with ease. Tucci and Clarkson make superb sparring partners, sliding through their variety of characters and finding lovely little consistencies to help us understand just a little bit about who they are as people. Some of the characters they play are particularly broad, while others are rather elusive. They tend to take turns acting and reacting. In one instance, Clarkson plays an aggressive woman who enters the room, grins at Tucci, punches him in the stomach and throws alcohol in his face. In another scene, Tucci comes wobbling into the room while pretending to be a blind man, which cracks Clarkson up (one of a handful of charming moments of levity in what is largely an intensely dramatic film).
The transfer is somewhat underwhelming, as there is a bit of color bleeding at times and detail is severely lacking. Black crush is a problem, too. Still, this isn't a film that really needs a spectacular transfer, so I'm less concerned about it than I would be in many instances. The sound is just fine, with the dialogue coming through with clarity. Oddly enough, the soundtrack is an odd batch of numbers that sound like they could be taken from European soundtracks of the '30s and '40s. That's appropriate enough, given that the movie feels vaguely European in construction anyway. The only supplement is a very engaging commentary with Tucci and Clarkson, who provide some nice insights into the characters they play.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The film's great big moment of drama towards the end somehow has less power than it ought to, perhaps because the film never quite escapes the vibe of feeling slightly more like an experiment than an honest story of humanity. In addition, there are elements of the film that veer into pretense, particularly something we learn about the narration (you'll know what I mean when you find out).
I liked Blind Date slightly less than some of Tucci's other films (particularly Big Night and Joe Gould's Secret), but it's a thoughtful little movie that deserves a look.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: E1 Entertainment
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