PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

'Save the Date' and Why Indies in the Aughts Shouldn't Mean Less Thoughts

Just because you can make a feature film, doesn't mean you should—especially if, as in Save the Date, you've got nothing to say.

Save the Date

Director: Michael Mohan
Cast: Lizzy Caplan, Alison Brie, Martin Starr, Geoffrey Arend, Mark Webber
Length: 97 minutes
Studio: Gilbert Films, Instinctive Film, Night and Day Pictures, XYZ Films
Year: 2012
Distributor: IFC Films
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, language, and brief drug use
US Release date: 2013-04-16

Lizzy Caplan? Alison Brie? Martin Starr? Alison Brie? Well, that’s all I need to know. With that kind of cast—and yes, I know I listed Alison Brie twice—it’s hard for me to imagine how I wouldn’t enjoy Save the Date, a romantic comedy centered on a pair of sisters with opposite views on love and relationships. I love every one of those actors. I love romantic comedies, and breaking down the plusses and minuses of traditional marriage opposed to unmarried love is a topic ripe for discussion—especially in an independent production like this that can dig into every side of the issue and cultivate new thinking.

If only that’s what they did in Save the Date. Writer-director Michael Mohan’s film is as aimless and lost as its main character. For a film with such bold ideas about how relationships should work, it completely fails to make a case for any kind of successful partnership. The characters—with the exception of Martin Starr’s Andrew—are structurally flawed and morally shallow, thus making for an uninteresting 97 minutes and a massive disappointment, in spite of the prime pedigree in front of the camera.

Lizzy Caplan (of Party Down fame) plays Sarah, a manager at a local bookstore who’s dating Kevin (Geoffrey Arend) as casually as one can while the couple prepares to move in together. Thanks to a misguided talk with his band mate Andrew (Martin Starr) and a truly idiotic misreading of signals, Kevin gets it in his head that proposing to his commitment-wary roommate-to-be is a good idea. Her sister, Beth (Alison Brie), is dating Andrew and flips when she hears of Kevin’s plan. Andrew promises to talk him out of it, but it’s not enough.

The details of what unfolds should be important, considering the film sets Beth and Andrew’s impending nuptials against Sarah’s instinctual desire to remain a free spirit. The sisters butt heads ever so slightly, but in that unique, gentle way only people who’ve known each other their whole lives can. It may be realistic, yet it’s not exactly compelling. What makes it even less relevant is each character’s inability to articulate their position. I know it’s not easy to say why you think marriage is important and vice versa, but you better come up with more than a shrug if its your movie’s central topic. Each minor encounter adds up to very little, and it’s not just happening between the sisters.

Characters in Save the Date don’t change. Understanding is not gained. Lessons are not learned. Instead of being the independent-minded movie I wanted, where ideas are brought out and discussed by compelling characters, it’s an independent movie of the aughts. It seems the new “it” thing for smaller, low-budget movies to have fewer and fewer ideas to convey, thought to provoke. Unlike the lively '90s where we saw ambitious indie pictures like Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and other films not made by Quentin Tarantino, the '00s seem to have brought out a downside for a boom that was only supposed to be for the better.

It’s probably just due to the oversaturation of the market, but that’s no excuse for lack of clarity. It’s the writer’s responsibility, when he sits down to pen a script, to have something to say. There are three credited writers on Save the Date, including director Mohan and cartoonist Jeffrey Brown. Brown seems to be the lead writer, based on the making-of feature told with comic strip illustrations, one of a few special features included on the DVD. I can’t help but wonder if his story would have played out better without the meddling of a second and third party. This story seems personal, and those are the ones always best left to the ones who lived it.

The other special features are a mixed bag. A director’s commentary is always a welcome inclusion, and this one doesn’t disappoint. Alas, the same cannot be said for the three minutes of deleted scenes—moments not missing from the movie. The outtake reel clocks in at a miniscule two minutes, and the music video, teaser, and trailer are all unnecessary considering the movie’s primary audience knows how to work YouTube.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.