Directed by Michael Beddoes
Starring Melissa Clements and Lauren Shotton
Short Film Review by Seamus Conlon
The titular date of this brief comedy of errors directed by Michael Beddoes involves Maddie (played by Melissa Clements) arriving at a bar for a date with a man named Tony. When a man she hopefully anticipates will be her blind date walks to the bar, she is surprised and dismayed when he gives a kiss to the barman. Immediately after, Tony, or rather Toni (Lauren Shotton) arrives at the bar and the awkward date commences. As Toni’s one-way flirtation hits a brick wall on the other side of the table from her, Maddie reflects upon exactly what may have caused the work colleague who set her up on the date to misread her as lesbian.
Dodgy gaydars and mistaken sexual identies aren’t particularly original for subject matter. Butch women being misidentified as lesbians has been a comic motif from Sex and the City to Peep Show. Sadly it cannot be said that short film The Date puts any exciting or extraordinary twist on this mildly inconvenient and only moderately funny scenario. Not only is the very premise of the short film unimaginative, but the writing proves highly predictable – when Maddie asks Toni at the end as to what it was that made it so easy for Toni to recognise that Maddie was not a lesbian all along, we know immediately that Toni will respond with an almost verbatim reworking of the words Maddie’s colleague Charly used to justify her misreading of Maddie as a lesbian.
Melissa Clements and Lauren Shotton deliver persuasive performances as the mismatched couple, but believability cannot be found in all performances. Whereas Clements successfully visually communicates her bemusement and unease at the situation she finds herself trapped in, Rebecca Robinson is an overacting caricature as Maddie’s mismanaging work colleague Charly – although, considering Charly is written as an intolerable brat fond of abrevs such as ‘obvs’ and acronyms such as ‘BFF’, it may be that there was no way for Charly to be anything other than grotesque.
The Date is a largely well-executed short, not unpleasant, and dominated by two strong performances. But it is uninventive in both concept and manifestation. A film whose ‘edge’ is gay subject matter would’ve perhaps been mildly interesting decades ago but feels dated, and in 2017 is uninteresting and will be stale decades from now. When the short ends, the audience wondering, ‘was this trying to make a morally instructive point? Was this a didactic piece about the importance of not making assumptions about people’ sexual orientations?’. Tiresome subject matter can only be redeemed by artistic flair.