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20 Dates

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: 20 Dates

Starring: Tia Carrere, Myles Berkowitz
Director: Myles Berkowitz
Rated: NR
RunTime: 92 Minutes
Release Date: February 1999
Genres: Comedy, Documentary

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

Ninety percent of Americans over the age of thirty-five are married or have been joined in matrimony at one time, and virtually one hundred percent of us have dated. This could mean only one thing: we're all searching for romantic love. The movies have undoubtedly influenced us to do so with their glorified portrayals of passion and high emotion, all backed up by soaring music and exalted sunsets. Are romantic relationship and our attempts to find them really the way the moving pictures would have us believe? Of course not; or, more accurately, not until now. To show us what dating is really like, Myles Berkowitz, a first time helmer, has written and directed a remarkably whimsical feature called "20 Dates," a film with the tagline "So real you're think it's fiction." If we take what he claims at face value (allowing for some invention to give the story a narrative feel), "20 Dates" captures on film its director's actual foray into the Los Angeles dating game, featuring his genuine agent, Richard Arlook, in the role of the agent in the picture, and Elie Samaha, one of the actual producers, in the role of the producer in this story. This casting of real people as though they were fictional characters in a bizarre and often hilarious documentary with the feel of a fable gives Mr. Berkowitz's movie a Pirandellian aura, a fluidity between what's actual and what's parable.

Berkowitz is a decent-looking guy in his early thirties who had been married and divorced and has taken the plunge anew into the dating game. Anyone who has experienced this knows how ambivalent the situation can be, as a guy leaves what he thought was a secure relationship and is thrust back into the uncertainty of the romantic rat race. Since Berkowitz's producer has put up the money to make the movie, he insists that his star actually go out with twenty women, and makes his requirements known in no uncertain terms each time he gets to speak his mind during the 88- minute film. (One hundred thirty hours of film were edited down, making the editor, in effect, a co-author of the script.)

In pursuing love, Berkowitz receives invaluable advice from Robert McKee, who appears from time to time holding court in an empty movie theater about the difference between screen fiction and real-life actuality. McKee, who has written teleplays and has adapted plays for the screen, is celebrated on the lecture circuit, where he discusses the structure of screenplays. In this case, he instructs Berkowitz about the difference between men and women--the old Mars-Venus dichotomy. "Men are interested in the physical, and women are interested in the fantasy, the phantom, or the chance that true love can occur between two people searching for such wildly different things is slim to none." Though the director ultimately proves the adviser at least partially wrong, he experiences more misses than hits when escorting his usually gorgeous women to class restaurants, beachfront picnics, informal cafes, and in one case even partakes with a outdoorsy type in a hazardous bungee jump.

He does not always inform his women of his intent to film their meetings. In a few cases he uses a hidden camera to capture the dates on film, planting the camera behind potted plants in restaurants and carrying a hidden microphone on his person. For such violations of privacy he is the subject of two lawsuits and even allegedly gets stabbed in the hand by an incensed woman. An intrusive camera crew muddles his scheme by planting the camera within two feet of one date's face, and in at least one instance his female companion excuses herself to go to the lavatory and simply disappears. Since his credit card is maxed out, he suffers an embarrassment for having only $56 in his pocket while his date orders three pounds of a $20-a-pound lobster. In another situation Caren, one of Berkowitz's friends, is captured on film with a stiff young man who blunders horribly: "At least you're a woman, and not my ex-wife. That's a good start."

Though his producer continually insists that he show sex in the movie, Berkowitz coyly drops the blinds in the one instance in that he has a sure thing, despite the bankroller's threat (probably a fiction), "I want sex in this movie, or I swear to God, you're gonna wish you were living in Timbuktu cause if you're somewhere that I can find you, I'm gonna break both of your legs."

Perhaps by studying footage of his dates, which are mostly disasters, Myles Berkowitz gets to realize his mistakes. At any rate, the whole episode is worthwhile, because in February of 1999 he will get to release an entertaining film that moves ahead at a rapid pace and which includes clips from popular movies like "Sleepless in Seattle," "When Harry Met Sally," "Singing in the Rain," and "Titanic." More important he has actually met the love of his life, a classy and comely woman who is studying interior decoration at U.C.L.A. He found his dream in a posh decorator store, and discovers that even without a romantic soundtrack to dramatize their mutual feelings, the high intensity of that first shared clasp of the hands is quite enough.

Early on, Berkowitz tells us that he has just two failings: his personal life and his professional career. By the conclusion of the movie, Myles has apparently remedied both.

Copyright 1999 Harvey Karten

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