Chain of Fates
I hope for your sake it’s successful. I hope for America’s sake, it’s a failure.
—Bill D’Elia to Brian Herzlinger in My Date With Drew
Anyone with a camera can make a movie. Throw in a good idea and, in this era of cheap cameras and own-your-own editing suites, the possibilities are endless. My Date With Drew directors Brian Herzlinger, Jon Gunn, and Brett Winn have the camera, the idea, and a gaggle of friends knowledgeable in every conceivable area of filmmaking. They’re ahead from the outset. They say the purpose of their film, made with a camera loaned from Circuit City for 30 days, is to secure Brian, an unemployed 27-year-old from Jersey with big Hollywood dreams, a date with Drew Barrymore. Adorable, right?
Well, even the best ideas can hit the wall. Brian gets his date, but his achievement is not as inspiring as he might think. The problems begin when co-director Winn asks him, “Why Drew Barrymore?” Herzlinger says, “Because it’s Drew Barrymore. I’ve had a crush on her since I was six years old.” He shrugs his shoulders and smiles as if the question is simply ludicrous. It’s not. It’s fundamental to the viewer’s understanding of Herzlinger and the film. Why does Brian crush on Drew? We don’t know. How has this crush developed over 20 years? He doesn’t say. Does it have anything to do with her conquering the odds against drug addiction and alcoholism? Her spirited nature? Her acting talent? We’ll never know.
Consider Herzlinger’s chat with Charlie’s Angels screenwriter John August. He tells August he’s happy to be speaking to someone who “knows” Drew. So what does he ask? “Which one of Drew’s characters is she most like?” Herzlinger can’t kick the fan-boy attitude. It’s not that he ignores questions about the “real” Drew; he seems unable to conceive them. He goes so far as heeding Eric Roberts’ advice to bulk up to impress Drew.
In fact, none of this is about Barrymore. Rather, My Date reveals the one-dimensional and self-delusional nature of celebrity crushes, and by extension, celebrity culture. Herzlinger is immersed in his version of movie-land, revealed in his collection of Spielberg posters and other memorabilia. He sees himself as an everyman with a goal, but comes off as a lazy wannabe, seeking quick fame like everyone else in Hollywood (he balks at a job at E!, but queries a pal on the availability of “anything at Dreamworks”). The DVD’s 20-minute feature about finding distribution for the film demonstrates that it’s yet another vehicle for Herzlinger to avoid working. Worse than his insincerity is Herzlinger’s complete lack of understanding of story structure and the film’s horrendous editing. My Date creates little narrative tension and no character development (Herzlinger, David, and Winn remain notably cardboard). At one point, Herzlinger gets a lead from Charlie’s Angels director McG’s fiancée’s stylist’s friend’s friend, a limo driver claiming to know “secrets” about Drew. We see Herzlinger call this guy at least three times, with no pay-off. Worse, Corey Feldman’s Drew tales are viciously chopped so that he appears unaware of his own career timeline (Feldman was not 10 in Goonies, as he appears to say here).
Brian does finally meet Drew, whereupon he embarrasses himself again by staring doe-eyed at her as she says, in her Drewlike way,
I’m excited that I’m a part of your journey, because there’s something beautifully balanced about what you’re doing and that you’re using something that keeps reoccurring in your life as an incentive to do something that you personally want to do and are interested in. Maybe I’m a link in your chain of fates or I’m an instigator of things that you have to do with yourself.
Pause. Brian asks, “Wanna see something cool?” then rips out his old fan club letters from Drew.
My Date With Drew is not a fairy tale about an average schmo achieving a far-fetched dream. It’s a starfucking free-for-all, revealing the sad desperation of a film industry fringe-dweller. And it’s not much fun, for all that.