Candid Cinema

Sundance Film Festival: ‘First Date’ Review And Interview With The Filmmakers

By: Amanda Guarragi

First Date is a fun and entertaining ride, as newcomers Manuel Crosby and Darren Knapp, give us a throwback flick filled with many twists and turns. We meet Mike, a highs-school kid with a crush, who musters up the courage to ask out Kelsey on a date. The only issue is that Mike doesn’t have a car, so he borrows money and gets conned into buying a ’65 Chrysler. All Mike wants to do is go on a date with the girl he likes but he ends up getting mixed up with the wrong people. His date night turns into this wild misadventure, that finds him targeted by a pair of cops, a criminal gang, and a vengeful cat lady.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

This was such a fun watch because it reminded me of all the 90s/early 2000s films I grew up watching. Audiences can appreciate what Crosby and Knapp did with this film because the nostalgia always hits. There are so many characters that are introduced and they all eventually cross paths with each other, creating tension and well-crafted action scenes. Crosby wanted to mix genres, throw in a little humour and give audiences something memorable, “We really wanted to create a story that had twists and turns that you couldn’t really predict easily in terms of what kind of genre it was. Those were the types of movies we would watch all the time and we just sort of felt like they were a little harder to find these days.” It’s safe to say that they followed through with their idea quite well and created something special.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

We all know what it’s like to want to impress the person you’re crushing on, so Mike (Tyson Brown) is pretty relatable. He’s shy, socially awkward and has his friend Brett (Josh Fesler) walk him through calling Kelsey for the date. All the characters in this film, including Kelsey, all have fragments of other well-known characters from our favourite films. That’s what will make you connect to all of them and genuinely enjoy their performances. There was so much happening in this movie, that sometimes it was hard to focus on Kelsey and Mike’s chemistry. The action scenes were executed well and the big stand-off at the end was great! It did feel like a mash-up of everything and it was balanced for the most part.

Even though there were many characters, producer and actor Brandon Kraus said that the car became its own character, “We found this really cool, interesting car, that was just as quirky as the characters in the film. But that came with car troubles. So like my past car troubles in the movie, we defo had our troubles on set with it not starting.” Admittedly, the car had gone through so much during this film, so of course it would run into some trouble on set. Even though they had car troubles, Kraus praised the cast and crew for working tirelessly through night shoots, where they would have 10 hour days and filmed for five days straight.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

The film was a labour of love and you could feel that from everyone involved. For this to be Shelby Duclos and Tyson Brown’s debut feature was so exciting for them. They expressed what it was like to be on set filming those action scenes, while being able to see how it’s made behind the camera as well. Brown and Duclos are in this industry because they love movies and grew up watching films just like this one, so they were overjoyed to get the full experience, “Even behind the scenes, when we weren’t shooting, it was like watching behind-the-scenes footage and I was like a movie geek sitting there with a smile on my face.” Duclos agreed with Brown and said that she learned so much about herself. She really enjoyed being surrounded with such wonderful people.

First Date is a dark comedy and coming-of-age thriller, that keeps you guessing until the end. It is an ode to our favourite flicks growing up in the 90s/early 2000s and will definitely make you feel nostalgic. The film has many twists and turns but it balances out as the story moves forward. It makes you feel like a teenager again because it places you in those intense situations with these characters. It has some funny, awkward moments, that will give you second-hand embarrassment because you can relate to them. Knapp and Crosby delivered on all fronts to make this a great debut feature.

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