It's one thing for first-time independent directors to make their feature
debuts with movies about struggling filmmakers, and it's quite another
thing entirely to engage in the singular act of self-indulgence that Myles
Berkowitz pulls off in _20_Dates_. Instead of making a thinly veiled
fiction film about himself, he has unabashedly made a film about himself.
And, in an added twist, the film he has made traces the making of the film
he has made (got that?).
By that description, _20_Dates_ sounds like an exercise in cinematic
masturbation--and, to a certain extent, it _is_--but it doesn't feel that
way. That's because Berkowitz has an interesting story to tell. Bored
with the movies' unrealistic view of love and frustrated with his
nonexistent film career _and_ love life, he came up with a high-concept
idea: make a movie about his own quest for true love. A camera would
follow him on twenty dates (hence the title), and if he somehow fell in
love during the course of these dates, not only would he have found love,
he would have also captured on film the exact, true moment where people
fall for each other--which, he felt, had never been captured in a Hollywood
film. But if love never comes, at least he would have his movie.
Because it details real-life events, _20_Dates_ can be considered a
documentary, but it isn't entirely one. The film is peppered by
Berkowitz's own narration, in which he makes wry comments and observations
on the events in retrospect, and, I suspect, he's also taken certain
dramatic liberties with some situations (most notably, the downward
fortunes of his producer, Elie Samaha). But 100% true or not, the film is
quite funny and never less than amusing, due mostly to Berkowitz himself.
He is an entertaining, engaging host, with a charmingly self-effacing
attitude about him.
So as one watches _20_Dates_, one hopes that he will find success--in his
career and in love. Does he? Fox Searchlight's theatrical release of
_20_Dates_ answers the former question, but as for the latter? You'll just
have to sit through the film's fun, if ultralightweight, 88 minutes to find