How most audiences react to "20 Dates" may depend on their tolerance for the personality of the film's writer, director and star, Myles Berkowitz.
Admittedly, the thirtysomething filmmaker has a dry, self-deprecating wit that recalls Woody Allen at his most neurotic. And his observations on life and love are pretty accurate. But after a while, his constant whining may grate on your nerves, and his humor can get pretty mean-spirited at times.
Of course, it doesn't help that the film eventually loses its focus and has to fumble back to the real storyline at the very end.
That being said, this comic documentary about dating certainly has its moments. And you have to tip your hat to Berkowitz, because undertaking something like this really takes guts. (Though you may have to see it to really understand that statement.)
The idea that fuels the movie is having Berkowitz go on dates with as many as 20 different women and record their reactions to him.
Complications ensue almost immediately. First, two of the dates are so enraged by his guerrilla filmmaking tactics that they decide to sue him.
Then he falls for one of the unfortunate women, Elisabeth Wagner, and then makes the mistake of going out with the others which he compounds by telling her about them.
Worse still, one of his producers (the foul-mouthed Elie Samaha) continually insists that Berkowitz should make the movie "sexier," by introducing him to a Playboy model first and then later trying to set him up with actress Tia Carrere (Samaha's real-life wife).
What ensues is hilarious at times, especially Berkowitz's efforts to attract women using cliched methods, such as a dog and a small child.2 comments on this story
In fact, the film is at its best when Berkowitz is making fun of himself rather than others. His bungled efforts to go bungee-jumping are almost worth the price of admission alone.
But a lot of scenes seem to have been set up in advance or worse, scripted. And as mentioned, a little Berkowitz goes a long way: Watching the women have to endure his attempts at wooing is sometimes painful. (Why Wagner was attracted to him the two are now engaged is anyone's guess.)
However, if there's a real value in "20 Dates," it may be useful as a primer in what not to do while dating.
"20 Dates" is rated R for profanity, vulgar sexual talk and use of some sexual slang terms, sex, nudity and a brief tussle.