May 10

Date Night

Do You See6 comments • 436 views

I completely fell for Tina Fey when she pulled her sweater off as a schoolteacher in Mean Girls, accidentally lifting her shirt with it. This of course was strongly reinforced by the wonderful 30 Rock, and she was soon by far the biggest celeb crush I have ever had. I would marry Liz Lemon tomorrow, given the chance, and that may be true of Tina Fey too.

So I didn’t care about whether any reviews said Date Night was good or not. An hour and a half where I could reasonably expect Fey on screen most of the time => I wanna see it. Frankly knowing more might have put me off a little: the idea of an ordinary couple getting drawn into big-league mob violence sounds like a ’70s movie version of a British sitcom, The Terry and June Movie or some such. And do I really want a big car chase starring Fey and Steve Carell?

The plot is ludicrous: mistaken identity, killer cops, mob bigwigs, corrupt politicians, and our heroes battling to survive them. It is hardly plausible, but in the way that Bringing Up Baby was barely plausible, so that was fine with me. None of it is impossible, and Tina Fey’s triumphant moment in the climax, the silliest and most contrived moment of it all, made me very happy.

There are some good pieces – the couple’s hopeless faux-seductive pole dance is very funny, and the car chase is extremely original and inventive – and some good gags and so on along the way, but it’s not those that made me love it. The stars play an ordinary couple: tax lawyer and realtor, house in the suburbs, two kids. One night out a week, date night, where they go to the same restaurant and eat the same food, and when they come home, that’s their night for sex, unless they feel a bit tired or something. Talking to two divorcing friends, they both want a bit more glamour and excitement, and head to the city for a fancier night out.

This is of course where it all starts going wrong for them, but what is never lost is that background, that taking-it-for-granted comfortable but unexciting relationship. From the early routine scenes to the most dramatic and life-threatening parts, this is never lost. The writing (which I had thought was Fey, but is in fact Josh Klausner) and the stars’ playing are pitch-perfect, full of precise nuances of this ordinary relationship, of how they feel about each other. There are strains and reinforcements during this terrible night, and every moment is visible on their faces, expressed in their words and voices. Even that absurd climactic moment entirely depends on their relationship, their deep history, a conversation earlier in the night about her not trusting him and what they saw between another couple.

I’ve insisted here before that the general notion of what constitutes great screen acting is hopelessly limited (for instance when discussing Jet Li). This is comedy-drama, and I don’t for a moment imagine that Fey or Carell will get near any Oscar nominations, but I’ll be surprised if I am as impressed with many movie performances this year. Of course Cary Grant famously never won an Oscar either.


  1. 1
    Martin Skidmore on 20 May 2010 #

    I have just been watching You Have Been Watching, and Sarah Millican is, while some way behind Tina Fey, climbing up my Celeb Crush List (which I have just made up and now has two names on it), for very similar reasons to Fey.

  2. 2
    Tracer Hand on 21 May 2010 #

    Some of the posters for this movie just show the upper half of that photo so that you can’t tell they’ve been blown up or whatever and for all the world it looks like they’ve just finished having sex.

  3. 3
    Pete Baran on 21 May 2010 #

    I’ve not seen it obviously, but happened to be in a cinema while it was on and its a very odd movie in as much as Fey and Carrell are so absolutely convincing as this couple in the mundane parts of the film that it is really disappointing when all the “funny” stuff starts happening, because they were already relatably funny in that first fifteen minutes. They play a happy couple who have settled into a routine but not in a way that in any way jeopardises their relationship (or at least not one that the odd argument would not clear up). The tension is not between them its between them and the rest of the world telling them they should want more, can be more selfish, that what they have got is not enough.

    There could be a nice Ozu style meditation on marriage here, which Carrell and Fey would play well. Of course it helps that at the heart of the marriage are two intelligent people who are clearly together because they make each other laugh, which possibly comes from the casting rather than the writing.

    By the way this is another film where the female lead is an estate agent, which for the last twenty years has equalled successful career that a mom can have more than any other in Hollywood.

  4. 4
    Tracer Hand on 21 May 2010 #

    And don’t forget the role that might have kicked off this modern female-estate-agent-possibly-leading-life-of-quiet-desperation syndrome, Kuei-Mei Yang in 1994’s “Vive L’Amour”…

  5. 5
    Ben on 21 May 2010 #

    Martin – it seems we have very similar taste in celeb crushes – both Tina Fey (well, technically Liz Lemon) and Sarah Millican feature high on my (also previously non-existent) list!

  6. 6
    lonepilgrim on 26 May 2010 #

    another Tinaphile here – pleased to report that she has just won ‘the prestigious Mark Twain Prize for American Humour’ which prompts the Guardian to link to a 30 Rock clip compilation.


    I’d also like to put in a positive word for Amy Poehler, who featured with TF on SNL and in Baby Mama.

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