20 Dates benefitted from some savvy editing - that took pains to include all of Berkowitz's goofy, self-serving concept. He decided to spend his movie making dream on finding true love - not a bad goal, if it were actually more important thanmaking the movie. But we soon realize, as he does, that women just get in the way of the important part: directing. And romantic tragedy is easier than romantic comedy. All you have to do is be yourself - and there! You hurt someone.
Berkowitz is so eager, so ambitious, so shamelessly, fatuously, foolishly self-promoting that you have to laugh at him. We've seen so many indies crash and burn, we half expect Myles to be just another kid who thinks fame will compensate for intelligence, sensitivity, emotional stability and taste. Crash. Burn. Next?
There's more to life than what you can put on celluloid. Berkowitz hoists himself on his own petard by mid-movie. Suddenly, the numbers mean less than a certain beauty called Elisabeth. She could make his life worth living. Still, he clowns around, trying to show off instead of appreciating what she brings to him and his movie. It takes the second half for Myles to grow up - well, strike that. For Myles to mature enough to think that growing up is a possibility....? Elisabeth makes a man - even a human - of Myles.
Berkowitz is an effective klutz or conjures up a naivete that works - either way, the impact of his personality on the process of filmmaking is to drive the whole process back to its charming origins. Half home-movie, half Los Angeles location romance, the movie is a lot like the early silents where we feel drawn into the fun of the making of the movie: will the car get across the railroad tracks, will the vaudeville bits play on film? It's experimental - which is why it's fun. "20 Dates" seems to be inventing as it goes, so the authenticity and risks Berkowitz is taking contribute to the big adventure. It's primitive, maybe it's reinventing the wheel, but it works to make us believe that "20 Dates" is an honest account of how treacherous the cineaste muse can be. Berkowitz almost wound up with twenty dates instead of "20 Dates" or How I Learned to Stop Shooting and Love.
Two things must be mentioned. Robert McKee, who must be blamed for the mushrooming screenplays cluttering up everybody's hopes and dreams, plays a major role as the Guide or the Advisor within "20 Dates." In person here, he is almost as wretched as the course he gives all over the United States, in which he suckers people into writing screenplays according to his faintly ridiculous formulas left over from a kind of industry standard from the Fifties. McKee is the guarantor of kitsch, just as another character - the mobster executive producer who wants some sex in this movie. Out of these cliches, Berkowitz builds comic horror and almost gains our sympathy because he is at the mercy of all the gross indecency and sucker-punch that Hollywood can deliver. And that's the good news.
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