In a world defined by a virus that preys on romantic desire, a lonely man risks his life for a chance at human connection. A dystopian rom-com about finding love in an age when physical distance breeds emotional distress.
A selection of Short of the Week, the web’s leading curators of quality short films.
Directed by JJ Shpall
Written by Eric Brewster & JJ Shpall
“Like many a modern romantic comedy, JJ Shpall’s Date Nite starts with a young man looking for a match on a dating app and finding no luck. Jon works in a dead-end cubicle work-environment, a call-center that, ironically, provides comfort for lonely people by selling them a dubious technological solution. Unlike the characters that inhabit most modern romantic comedies though, Jon lives in a world where desire and human contact are prohibited due to a mysterious, unexplained sickness that produces hilariously gruesome outcomes. Well, that ups the stakes! When Jon finally matches Maya, he has to ask himself if a shot at intimacy is worth defying the law and endangering himself—to say nothing of jeopardizing his prospective date.
The film is a tightrope of tone—it evokes dystopian visions past, yet, in keeping with its whimsical, romantic yearnings, also never takes itself too seriously. Grittier precedents are evoked via sterile office environments and the monochromatic palette of green and blue, but are softened by a fashionable retro-kitsch. A dash of color is inserted into Jon’s life wth Maya, both literally and figuratively, and that also helps the film from becoming too somber, as well as the contributions of the film’s cast, which is populated by semi-known faces from TV sitcoms, and who infuse this dark comedy with their subtly awkward comedic mannerisms.
Josh Brener (Silicon Valley, Maron) plays the lovelorn schmuck Jon, a loser you root for even as things turn grotesquely sour. His counterpart, Lauren Lapkus (The Big Bang Theory, Orange Is the New Black) gives the role of the slightly out-of-his-league love interest the necessary depth as a three-dimensional character in her own right. The film is personably cast right up to the supporting actors, with Cleo King (Mike & Molly) and Larry Hankin (who I’ll always remember as Monica and Rachel’s weird downstairs neighbor Mr. Heckles from the first two seasons of Friends) rounding out the ensemble.
“You are not alone in your aloneness.”
As much as certain connections to the momentary reality are undeniable, it is worth noting that Date Nite was conceived, made, and even selected for S/W long before COVID-19 existed. The core of the story has more to do with one of the most ancient motivations for artists to create—heartbreak. Writer/director JJ Shpall elaborates on the personal inspirations for his film:
“Hypothetically, let’s say I was heartbroken last year. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that I vowed to never hurt so much again. I began asking rhetorical questions like, “Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world where love didn’t exist?” And when that wasn’t enough, I wondered what it’d be like to make that question literal.”
Obviously, in the times we are living in, truth is stranger than fiction. In the current circumstances there is barely an aspect of daily life that hasn’t been affected by the COVID-19 crisis and it wouldn’t be sensible to ignore the similarities in Date Nite’s narrative. As filmmaker Shpall himself explains:
“What I could not have seen coming was how the real world would so suddenly mirror the film’s dating apocalypse. When we shot it, we wanted to create a sense of physical and emotional distance to reflect the challenges of forging relationships in a digital age. A few months later, there’s now a term for that: social distancing.” …
Read the full review: www.shortoftheweek.com/2020/04/06/date-nite/”
CAST & CREW
Jon — Josh Brener
Maya — Lauren Lapkus
Janitor — Larry Hankin
Angela — Cleo King
DP — David Bolen
Reproduced on this channel with the permission of the filmmakers.