Judge Michael Rankins never dated Drew Barrymore, but he once had his picture taken with Diana Canova.
Thirty days and $1,100 for an ordinary guy to get a date with Drew Barrymore.
"If you don't take risks, you'll have a wasted soul."—Drew Barrymore
After six years of dead-end studio jobs chasing the Hollywood dream, 27-year-old Brian Herzlinger was ready for a few risks when, in 2003, he won $1,100 on a TV game show. Armed with this wad of cash, a video camera "purchased" under Circuit City's 30-day return policy, and the help of a few friends with tangential connections to the motion picture industry, Herzlinger set out to fulfill a lifelong fantasy: Convincing superstar actress Drew Barrymore to go on a date with him.
This is Brian's story.
Facts of the Case
"I took the stairs and felt like my childhood took the elevator."—Drew Barrymore
Brian Herzlinger's crush on Drew Barrymore dates back to when he was six years old, and first saw Drew in E.T. At age ten, Brian joined Drew's official fan club—documentation of which he still keeps in the bedroom where he grew up. By an ironic twist of fate, the winning answer during his appearance on the game show Taboo was "Drew Barrymore." Seeing that Brian's fifteen minutes of TV fame occurred as Drew was filming Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, it seemed only natural that the budding filmmaker would plow his paltry prize money into the pursuit of his dream girl.
Along his 30-day journey, Brian:
• Is turned down for help by his friend and mentor, TV director-producer Bill D'Elia (The Practice, Boston Legal): "First of all, I think it's a bad idea. Second of all, when I was 27, my dream? World peace. Not Drew Barrymore."
• Gains less-than-enthusiastic support from his parents, especially his mother, whose opinion of Ms. Barrymore is uncompromisingly blunt—"She's a slut. They just pulled her out of a bar someplace. It was in my Star magazine."
• Creates a movie trailer to pitch his date idea to Drew's production company, featuring ponderous narration by the real-life "Movie Trailer Voiceover Guy."
• Encounters numerous D-list celebrities and pseudo-celebs, including actors Eric Roberts (who flexes his well-developed bicep for the camera and advises Brian to buff up) and Corey Feldman (who once dated Drew for about two months, and just seems happy to be on camera), screenwriters Allison Burnett (Autumn in New York) and John August (both Charlie's Angels films), and Drew's first cousin Stephanie, who has never met her famous relative but "hears from other people that she's a lovely woman."
• Hires a Drew look-alike (actress Lily Rains, who looks like Drew only if you're legally blind, or smear Vaseline on your glasses) to go on a "practice date" with him.
• Crashes the premiere of Drew's latest picture using a forged backstage pass, and gets close enough to his quarry for actual physical and verbal contact.
• Exhausts every conceivable avenue in his valiant attempt to get his name and face in front of his movie star heartthrob, in the hope that curiosity, kindness, or perhaps even pity will move Drew to offer him a couple of hours of her precious time.
"I definitely don't think that I'm hot doo-doo. I don't."—Drew Barrymore
As Brian Herzlinger explains to Eric Roberts, "I've had a crush on Drew Barrymore since I was ten years old. Not a stalker crush—a harmless crush." To which Julia's less famous brother replies, "All the stalkers say that."
In a nutshell, that exchange illustrates the unlikely magic of My Date With Drew. Let's face it: A guy going to such extreme lengths to meet an untouchable celebrity could easily be creepy. Criminally creepy. Restraining order and additional bodyguards creepy. Yet, there's nothing remotely creepy about Herzlinger's quest here, because it's handled with such a deft, light touch. It's also clear early on that the filmmakers' true agenda isn't a simple date with Drew Barrymore, but something equally elusive—getting attention in a town that eats wannabes, never-weres, and has-beens for breakfast, without leaving crumbs behind.
Fortunately, Herzlinger has a desperate, goofy-yet-endearing charm that sells this uniquely Hollywood story almost from the moment he appears on camera. He's not an especially attractive guy—he looks like a genetic cross between David Naughton from his An American Werewolf in London period, Lorenzo Lamas's geeky kid brother, and that garrulous cab driver I had during my last trip to Las Vegas—but Herzlinger manages to come off as likeable and sincere even when the film's internal conceit becomes obvious. Herzlinger never takes himself too seriously, poking fun frequently at his near-lycanthropic hirsuteness and couch potato physique. His obsession with Drew Barrymore always comes off as playful and sweet—albeit on the weird edge of both—rather than icky or eerie.
It also helps that, for a documentary shot with a single camera under a variety of uncontrollable conditions—with a budget that would barely buy a parking pass on a studio lot—My Date With Drew is a remarkably impressive piece of filmmaking. Credit for the polish goes to Herzlinger's partners: co-director Jon Gunn (who already has one feature film on his directing resume: Mercy Streets, starring—surprise—Eric Roberts); co-director Brett Winn, whose day job is editing film trailers (hence the cameo by the Movie Trailer Voiceover Guy, George DelHoyo); and co-producer Kerry David, a former assistant to Nicole Kidman who executive-produced the Agent Cody Banks films. Together, the foursome crafted a picture that looks as though more money was spent on it than there was, and that manages within its narrow constraints to look alternately amateurish and professional, as the situation dictates.
At every turn, My Date With Drew manages to be enjoyable, largely because we can tell the people making it enjoyed the experience. And underlying every aspect of the film is the recognition that the cult of celebrity really does drive the entertainment industry. After all, if hundreds of thousands of men weren't secretly fantasizing about their own dates with Drew (and Cameron, and Lucy, and Demi), who do you think bought all those tickets to Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle?
You see, we all want our brush with stardom. It's the reason why tabloids and People line the supermarket checkout line, why millions who have never seen the nominated films tune in to watch the Academy Awards, and why Jerry Springer has a job.
My Date With Drew lands its date with DVD courtesy of First Look Pictures. Given the guerrilla nature of the feature, the presentation makes a surprisingly clean transition from videotape (which we see being purchased in one of the movie's first scenes). As might be expected, the quality of the source image varies based upon the available illumination in each location, but the picture remains sharp and clear in almost every setting. A few low-light sequences suffer from graininess, and at least one outdoor sequence suffers from an overabundance of sunlight, but overall, this is a better visual experience than one might anticipate.
I was also surprised to find that the audio is a full-fledged 5.1 surround track. On three viewings, I was hard pressed to find a single place where the surrounds made even the slightest impact. Then again, this is a film composed almost entirely of conversation, so I don't know where I would have expected to hear anything dramatic in the soundtrack. The handful of occurrences of music on the track are handled ably, if not momentously.
The one major supplemental feature is well worth the 20 minutes you'd invest to view it. "The Drew Crew: On the Road to Hollywood" chronicles the adventures of our filmmaking foursome as they travel the film festival circuit attempting to land a theatrical distribution deal for their movie (they're adamant about not selling it to television). This featurette adeptly answers the burning question left in the mind of the viewer after the film's conclusion, and shows where the money trail led after the $1,100 was spent. It is a worthy companion to the feature.
The theatrical trailers for My Date With Drew and two other films are also included.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
"I want people to be blown away when I do what they don't expect."—Drew Barrymore
As to the fundamental question: Does Drew Barrymore ever grant Brian Herzlinger his wish? I don't want to completely overturn the bean pot, but think of it this way. Would Louis Malle have called his now-legendary 1981 film My Dinner With Andre if Andre never showed up to eat?
"I think that whatever scares you is exactly where you should go, because safe and comfortable means you've already done it."—Drew Barrymore
Who hasn't pondered the possibility of a date with a movie star? Most of us wouldn't have the first clue how to go about chasing that rainbow. Brian Herzlinger—in his nerdy, self-involved, yet charming way—figures out and implements a master plan for finding his bliss in the city where, as one woman-on-the-street interviewee reminds us, dreams come true, and not just on film.
"I think it's nice when people find love, because I feel like everyone deserves it."—Drew Barrymore
Not guilty of celebrity stalking. Guilty of gratuitous body hair footage and random acts of groveling, but all in good fun. Court is in recess.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: First Look Pictures
• Post-Production Featurette: "The Drew Crew: On the Road to Hollywood"
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