Judge Adam Arseneau is pleased to meet you, for the next three minutes.
It's not stalking…it's research.
Irish movies have such a great mix of romance and black comedy that it's challenging to tell what parts you're supposed to laugh at, and what parts are just terrible. Take Speed Dating, a delightful mix of mental dysfunction, romance, and murder that dances deftly on the border of romantic comedy and criminality.
James Van Der Bexton (Hugh O'Conor) is an expert speed dater. Problem is, he has a hard time telling the truth, and girls find out pretty quickly he isn't on the level. Hapless at love, he dwells at the pub with his two mates, bemoaning his fate. His therapist insists he needs to start being honest, but James can't quite bring himself to do it. When he spies a beautiful woman at the bar, Victoria (Olga Wehrly), James devotes himself to the chase, literally, by following Victoria around. At night. Wearing dark clothes.
His plan might have worked, except James gets into an accident and gets amnesia, unable to remember who he is. A helpful nurse, Susan (Emma Choy) tries to get James back on his feet, but James has bigger problems. Victoria has gone missing, and the police are looking to talk to James—and they don't buy his amnesia story.
I like these small independent films. Speed Dating is tiny and Irish, but there's no reason for it to remain contained within the shores of its homeland. Quirky and fun, there's a surprising amount of good film here—engaging and adorable characters, and just enough mayhem and unpredictability to keep it fresh. It's like a Nick Hornby neurotic romance edited into a Guy Ritchie caper film.
Speed Dating breaks down effortlessly. You get a charming romantic comedy with a moon-faced protagonist addicted to speed dating, looking for love. Things get messy when you drop in James' mental peculiarities, leading him to confuse romantic research with genuine creepy stalking behaviors. You'd feel sorry for him, until things get a bit out of hand and he gets amnesia and mistaken for a murderer. A delightful comedy of errors ensues, but the enjoyment of the film comes in James and his bumbling attempts to find love.
Where the film wisely chooses to invest most of its currency is in the romantic comedy elements. A film blending two disparate genres is an advanced maneuver, and lesser films plummet out of the sky pretty fast. Writer/director/producer Tony Herbert deftly avoids this particular pitfall by making the romance the focal point of Speed Dating, and using the crime/amnesia/murder/drug dealing elements as delicate seasoning and garnish. A wise move; I'd rather see a romantic comedy with some criminal elements than a criminal film with some romantic elements any day of the week.
Hugh O'Conor is marvelously cast as James, a down-on-his-mental-health speed dater trying to rebuild his life after a bad breakup. He's got those big hobbit-esque features that would put him perfectly cast in some film by Peter Jackson in the Shire. Things go bad for his character quickly, but most of the trouble is in his own neurotic head space; depressed and aimless and heir to a large fortune, James is the definition of first-world problems, but O'Conor's performance makes him appealing and sympathetic.
For our review copy, we received a promotional screener, so we can't provide any details about the audio, video, or supplementary features as they pertain to the retail edition. Our copy came in stereo sound, a low-key transfer with some compression artifacts and no extra features save a trailer. The soundtrack is jammed full of dance and indie rock hits from the UK.
Speed Dating will make a marvelous date rental film. It's got a nice, light mix of romantic comedy—just enough to be sweet and endearing, not enough to make you sick—with all kinds of black comedy, murdering, drug dealing, and bizarre entanglements tossed in for good measure. Fun, light, and quite charming in its own Irish kind of black, perverted way, Speed Dating scores, provided you don't take the story too seriously.
Charming, light, and enjoyable. Not guilty.
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