Director and North Carolina native Tor Ramsey shows his love for the city of Raleigh in the romantic comedy Raleigh, I Kinda Like You. His comedy is an ensemble piece constructed of loosely connected vignettes designed to showcase the City of Oaks and its denizens in six tales of relationships and deceit. With titles reminiscent of Friends episodes (for example, The One With the Obnoxious British Guy), the chapters focus on first dates, hookups, wishful thinking, OCD, and subterfuge that lands somewhere between gaslighting and catfishing.
In one story, a man borrowed a beautiful Cadillac to impress his date, but the fornication he hoped for turns out very differently than planned. In another entry, a woman brings her significant other to meet her parents for the first time, who shock the couple with how much information a background check can bring to light. There are also would-be threesomes and wedding proposals with paragraphs of conditions and provisos.
The narratives of Raleigh, I Kinda Like You are all told by a boozy smoking character, played by the director himself, shown in black and white at a bar with his pals. They are tall tales, and all seem to pivot around a mysterious, gorgeous, blonde stranger (Stewart Corchiani). All of this activity, whether charming or profane, is framed by the city of Raleigh, shown as a vibrant character in its own right. It’s a lovely homage to a place we don’t hear much about, even here in Atlanta, only 400 miles away.
“…loosely connected vignettes designed to showcase the City of Oaks and its denizens…”
An interstitial segment with well-known actor and Raleigh resident, Ira David Wood III, breaks into the “not a threesome” vignette like a special news report. It’s difficult to decide if this piece is inspired or distracting, but it is entertaining whatever else you can say about it. If you’ve seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show, imagine Charles Grey’s criminologist, and you’ll have a sense of Wood’s presentation. He displays a device he claims will translate subtext for the viewer of a film. It’s clearly an Apple TV with the logo blurred out. When they return to the scene already in progress, we can hear the thoughts of the characters. It’s a long way to go for a short joke but makes for a gallant attempt.
The pace of Raleigh, I Kinda Like You is positively frenetic. Blink, and you will definitely miss something, but it’s all fun and frivolous, and you can grab another beer and catch up just fine. There’s not enough time with the characters to learn, or care about, their names. They are “some guy” and “a woman I heard about” featured in drunk-talk on a Friday night in your favorite dive. They are social archetypes particular to a time and place. This is a dating world of apps, blind dates, and hookups, where some folks are sincere, but most people are conniving for an angle with relationships like they were Norse deities competing in a cosmic reality show.
From a production quality perspective, the film shows its independent rough edges. The sound is dodgy and uneven occasionally. Likewise, the cinematography is not entirely polished or perfect. These aren’t flaws, however, but rather function as elements that lend Ramsey’s sweet ode street cred.
Raleigh, I Kinda Like You is casual fun. One imagines that the plotting for the vignettes happened around the same table in the very bar used for the framing story. Ramsey gets a little too smug and winky with the audience at times, and there are awkward moments of meta self-consciousness as well. These are sins easily forgiven in the delightful madness. I would love to see what Ramsey could do with a serious script. This film shows great potential for future work.
"…shows great potential for future work."