Undatement Center (Short)
Dating’s tough. That’s certainly going to be read by many, who will say, “Understatement of the century,” but I think I now need to include NOT dating in my definition of dating after watching Chris Esper’s “Undatement Center.” Let’s face it, one of the trickiest phases of our love lives is when we don’t actually HAVE a love life- that was basically me up until I was 35, which is when I started seeing the woman who would eventually become my wife. I had a date or two in my early 30s, but nothing that became serious. I am grateful that I do not have to worry about that anymore. Unfortunately, for Jack (Trevor Duke), he’s discovering what I did when I finally dated in my 30s after a long dryspell…you need everything quantified and in order, or else it’s going to be rough out there, not unlike finding a job.
Jack hasn’t dated in 12 years. He goes to a dating service, Undatement Center, and finds that prospective mates view dating much the way prospective employers do. You need a resume. You need to look presentable. You may even need to take a drug test. And even then, you may not be assured a second look. When he signs in, he finds it uncomfortable to admit why his last relationship ended, and it’s not easy for him to talk about himself. This was me when I finally started dating, and it was awkward. When he’s offered an opportunity to be the interviewer rather than the interviewee, however, he finds his groove, although will the cynicism his experiences with Undatement Center make it difficult for him to see a true connection when it comes his way?
There’s a lot of truth in 9 minutes here from Esper (who also did “The Deja Vuers” earlier this year), and it hits you both in the funnybone, with its observational humor, and the heart. It’d be easy to look at Jack in the second half of the film, now given the power to control his dating destiny, and feel like he’s a complete jerk, but bad dating experiences, whether they happened 12 years ago or in five minutes, can have a lasting effect on someone. I know my one adventure in dating in my 20s, which involved meeting someone I met online at one place (which I admittedly screwed up), only to have her stand me up when we chose a place for dinner, had a negative impact on me and my emotional well-being. It wasn’t the reason I didn’t date again until I was 30, but it certainly didn’t help my state of mind about doing so. Once I got past my own inadequacies, and recognized that they were an important part of who I was at my core, that’s when I was able to give myself in to the process, and see the right thing when it came along. Esper gets that, and his film catches you in the heart when Jack gets that, too.