At The Movies With…
Lady Beverly Cohn
Not since Woody Allen’s cinematic love affair with New York has that fascinating city been captured with such adoration as director Jonah Feingold’s “Dating & New York,” his cinematic debut. The opening credits, an artist’s palette of vibrant pastel colors, depict sketches of a variety of familiar scenes from a doorman standing in front of a building to the glittering night skyline. The visuals are accompanied by an upbeat soundtrack by Grant Fonda who incorporates a variety of musical instruments, including violins, piano, and a chorus of singers. The narrator’s voiceover by Jerry Ferrera begins with “Once upon a time” so, we know we are about to experience a modern-day fairytale meticulously captured by cinematographer Maria Rusche who, working with the director and Motion Graphics Artist Gustavo Rosa, infuses the film with glorious sometimes spot lighting gifting the audience with the colorful eye-candy, storybook opening.
Let me say at the beginning, that some of the ideas in this film are derivative from such works as “Friends With Benefits,” or “When Harry Met Sally.” That said, there is always room for a new twist on an old subject – the subject being the challenges of dating which are specific to the four primary millennial characters inhabiting Feingold’s well-written script. Wendy, played by a remarkable Francesca Reale is trolling dating sites to meet someone. It is there that she meets Milo, brilliantly played by Jaboukie Young-White, whose performance will occasionally tug at your heartstrings. He and Wendy meet at a bar “Where you won’t run into an “X.” It seems they like each other and he tells her she’s perfect. In between conversation, they both check their phones for messages. He kisses her and romantic music soars. They wind up at his apartment, but neither one seems real interested in getting together again or in the present vernacular – they ghost each other. Hank is Milo’s best friend and is well played by Brian Muller. He works for J.P. Morgan and appears to be more grounded than his pal. Hank spots a young woman sitting at the bar and tells Milo “I’m going to marry her.” There’s a very funny scene where she comes over demanding to know why he aimed a finger at her. Turns out Olivia (Taylor Hill) is visiting from Texas and points out “I don’t have a top lip” and that she has a boyfriend. Anyway, Hank meets Wendy’s best friend Jessie, nicely played by Catherine Cohen and in short order they become a committed couple. One of the most delightful moments in the film is a cameo role in which Sondra James plays a real estate broker showing Hank and Jessie an apartment. She can’t be more than 4’9” and is adorable especially in the three-way hug after Hank agrees to take the apartment where he asks Jessie to move in with him. In the meantime, Milo and Wendy reconnect on the “Meet Cute” dating app and pick a meeting spot at a diner equidistant from the “F” train. Anyway, they decide they really like each other but don’t want it to be exclusive so they create a “Best Friends With Benefits” contract, outlining the parameters of their relationship. He wants cuddling and words like “I love you” cannot be used carelessly. They are best buddies who spend a lot of time hanging out together sharing their daily experiences and all seems to be going well. He sends her articles and they discuss Instagram. The doorman in Milo’s building is Cole played by the film’s narrator Jerry Ferrara. He is a good friend to Milo and asks the non-exclusive couple what would happen “If one of you catches feelings.” The two protagonists discuss dating stories with each other and soon Milo is not thrilled that she sees other men. He does a one-upmanship by bedding his neighbor Katie (Sohina Sidhu) from Apartment 7F who doesn’t want to see him again while Wendy has a date with a guy who lied about his height, confessing “I’m slightly smaller than I said.” In the meantime, Milo is falling in love with Wendy and proposes that they be exclusive. Well, that’s the kiss of death for Wendy who is definitely commitment phobic so with violin music playing, they stop seeing each other. Moving on, Wendy gets involved with handsome Trent (Alex Moffat) who has an apartment in Tribeca and is equally commitment phobic suggesting that they slow down and take a break. In the meantime, Milo is on a train heading downtown to a John Mayer concert with yet another date who, while holding onto to the pole, tells him “I don’t see a future with us” and gets off at the next stop. It’s now time for Hank and Jessie’s wedding where Milo and Wendy will see each other for the first time in a while. They are both disappointed in their dating experiences and eventually confess that they miss each other and want to resume their relationship and make it exclusive. Introduced at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival, you’ll have to watch the movie to see how their relationship plays out.
Throughout the film, the director sets his characters in familiar New York City landmarks with a profusion of colors accenting such places as subway stations, the Staten Island Ferry, and of course the iconic Central Park giving it a special dazzling look as rain droplets settle on trees and pathways. Given this is Feingold’s first film, I can’t wait to see what’s next.
“Dating & New York”
Distributor: IFC Films
Release Date: September 10, 2021
Where: In Select Theatres & VOD Rentals
Running Time: 92 Minutes