SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! First Date had me as soon as I met its lead actor, Tyson Brown, who plays Mike. Mike is a sweet young man in high school who wants to take out his neighbor Kelsey (Shelby Duclos), who we meet boxing in her garage, but according to his incredulous best friend, he needs to have a car. With all the money he could scrounge from his parents’ secret hiding place, who have left him for the weekend and hightailed it to Vegas, he buys a 1965 Chrysler, which looks like it survived a nuclear disaster. When Mike sees its 8-track tape player, he is sold on the car because Kelsey likes 8-track players. So long BMX bike and hello date night car and some potential action.
For no apparent reason, Mike is pulled over by a strange and suspicious cop duo and released immediately after buying his heap. Thus, begins an all-night adventure loaded with a motley-mob, drug crew who fight over their book club book, which is really a novella, the ’65 Chrysler seller who is a low-rate petty swindler whose cat-obsessed wife is teetering on the edge with a pistol ready to fire, and a whole mess of people, including the cop duo, who all have their own bizarre obsessions and personal issues with each other, Mike’s ’65 Chrysler, Mike, and Kelsey.
“So long BMX bike and hello date night car and some potential action.”
What makes this dark comedy funny is that it’s an independently produced film, so there’s no-holds-barred on firing guns, bad language, contraband, and an obscene amount of mischievous behavior. The over-the-top car chases, car crashes, shoot outs, squabbling lovers, and other ridiculousness pairs well with Tyson Brown’s calm and innocent portrayal of Mike, whose breakout performance is a memorable one. The writing and directing duo of Manuel Crosby and Darren Knapp’s feature film debut is also worthy to note, as they are good friends who were able to make a chase film in Spring Valley, California, the town they grew up in. Because of their close personal connection, they were able to write a great script for the actors to embrace and bond with their locations, actions, characters, humor, and each other.
What starts out as a teen romance movie essentially becomes a corrupt cop and drug dealer chase but never deviates from its main date storyline, and it ties up every bit of the plot, leaving no action unresolved.
First Date has a multitude of shady characters, locations, and motivations, which all seemingly have a purpose and add humor where necessary and on point, making it a lovable goofball comedy. The idea of a car that has had as many lives as this ’65 Chrysler makes me wonder about all the used cars I have ever had in my life and the untold stories that linger beneath the hood, under the backseat, in the trunk, and caused the stereo to break.
First Date premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.
"…makes me wonder about all the used cars I have ever had in my life and the untold stories that linger beneath the hood..."