Screwball comedy, mystery, and drama are all hard to balance. First Date admirably tries to do all three, but it all crumbles in a sea of characters that aren’t fully developed outside of maybe Mike: the core protagonist who just wants to go on a date, and keeps bumbling into increasingly absurd situations.
Mike, played more than capably by Tyson Brown, is keen to date Kelsey (Shelby Duclos), but he’s incredibly shy. It’s an endearing quality, and one that gets him into tons of trouble as he has trouble saying no to all the antics that unfold on screen. The issues in First Date all start with a ’65 Chrysler purchase. Innocuous, right? Wrong! The car and the seller are actually embroiled in a drug scheme, which also involves the police and hometown gangsters.
The humour and tone swap constantly. One moment, Mike is basically begging for his life as a result of a misunderstood situation where someone thinks he invaded their home. The next, he’s cruising around in his new car trying to sort out his first date, only to find more trouble.
There’s a few scenes that just feel off, and rushed. Mike running into the cops is a naturally precarious situation, full of tension without a line of dialogue required. But soon we’re whisked away to a new set of characters, unable to really identify with Mike’s situation. First Date refuses to linger and let us enjoy the few good personalities it gives us.
“First Date refuses to linger and let us enjoy the few good personalities it gives us.”
Instead, it falls into the same trappings as recent heist-action-flicks like Free Fire, where it’s all over and place and tries to balance character development and the “mystery” of where the story is going to go. Of course, all roads lead to a standoff scene, because that’s just how these things usually go since Reservoir Dogs brought it into the modern setting forefront (and westerns before it).
First Date is funny in short bursts. It’s also tense…in short bursts. And there are moments of actual stakes and meaningful drama. It’s nice that Kelsey actually feels like her own person, too, capable of interacting with the events with her own set of agency. Mike is more like a passenger despite literally driving most of the time, which is intended and mostly plays out how it should.
But Mike’s character is the only one that really pays off, and even then, a lot of the crazy night is shrugged off. It feels like a nearly two-hour fever dream (which has some perks in the moment) but you don’t remember it the next day. With some tweaks and some focus, First Date would have been more fun to follow and had a better payoff. In practice, if you showed someone most of the scenes in the film, all they’d talk about is how they’d seen them before elsewhere. I wanted to like First Date, and even found myself liking Mike and Tyson Brown’s performance, but it just wasn’t there. I’d take a second go-around with Brown, but I probably won’t be watching this first take again.