We live in an age of efficiency (or expressed attempts at efficiency). Trips to the bank involve 5 minutes at an ATM instead of human interaction with a teller, food (even pharmaceuticals) can be bought at a drive-thru and if you want to find a mate, why not try out 20 of them in an evening during a speed dating session. It is within this world of speed dating that director Tony Herbert’s feature film finds its anchor.
James Van Der Bexton (Hugh O’Conor) is the heir to a large fortune, but money can’t buy you happiness, as he finds as he spends day in and day out lamenting over a previous failed relationship. In an attempt to get back into the dating game, James gets involved in speed dating, wherein he gets to meet multiple women in a short amount of time over a single evening and then, if they like him enough to follow up with a real date, he’ll be informed at the end of the evening by the speed dating organizer. The problem, however, is that he’s very bad at speed dating. How bad?
All he does is lie to the women, in an attempt to craft a persona far more interesting than his own rich-boy reality. When attempts to be mysterious go too far, instead scaring the ladies as opposed to charming them, James is kicked out of his speed dating group.
Taking his newfound mysteriousness too far, James decides to follow a woman home from the pub and, well, for lack of a better term, stalk her. During his evening of note-taking through binoculars, he winds up giving himself away, resulting in a run from the scene and a hit-and-run accident where James is knocked unconscious and, upon his awakening, also has amnesia.
The problem? The police are now questioning him, because the woman he followed home has gone missing. On top of that, the police found a number of questionable books on stalking and other clandestine activities in James’s apartment (research materials for his attempts at being mysterious, but they don’t know that, and James can’t remember to tell them) and, since James is a mini-celebrity as the heir to a great fortune, the possibility that he’s involved in some truly warped activities is too much for any career-making cop or reporter to pass up. With the help of his nurse Susan (Emma Choy), James slowly begins to piece together his life, and the events that transpired after his accident.
“Speed Dating” is a romantic comedy mixed in with a bit of the mystery thriller, but make no mistake, it is a romantic comedy first and foremost. At no point are we ever too worried that anything will happen to James and friends, mainly because that’s just not the tone of the film. Dark events do transpire, sure, but they feel periphery, as the real story gets going when James and Susan begin dissecting his life and re-building it together.
Oddly enough, I found myself enjoying Herbert’s “Speed Dating,” despite the fact it had two things I normally hate in a plot: a rich, disaffected protagonist and amnesia. Usually, for the former, its the grand amount of money and privilege that leads to their disenchantment and, as someone who has neither money or privilege, I don’t want to see a movie about a whiney rich boy. On top of that, after “Memento,” anytime I see a plot explained with “amnesia” or “short-term memory loss” or anything equally memory-related, I think of it as lazy writing. I’m expressing these personal prejudices because maybe some of you out there are the same way, and it’s important to point this out because “Speed Dating” does not offend one’s objections to these devices. As I said above, it is a romantic comedy, and a funny one at that, and it doesn’t dwell in the possible pretensions of its plot developments.
If you’re looking for a quality romantic comedy that you and your significant other can enjoy together, “Speed Dating” is right up your alley. Never too sentimental to make it offensive to your man-ness, and never too much a thriller to turn off your lady, “Speed Dating” is a perfect balance of the opposite sex’s sensibilities, and worth checking out.