My Date with Drew (United States, 2003)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

If one had to classify My Date with Drew, it would fall under the documentary umbrella. A more honest appraisal, however, would be to call it "reality TV" for the big screen. After all, it has the same quintessential appeal: an "everyman" as the protagonist, an unscripted narrative, and plenty of spontaneous action. No, director/producer/star Brian Herzlinger doesn't have to ingest bugs or dangle out building windows to attain his goal, but he does have to jump through quite a few proverbial hoops.

Although My Date with Drew has a straightforward and feather-light premise, it stumbles, perhaps unwittingly, into deep waters. The film touches tangentially on such weighty philosophical issues as the relevance of the cult of celebrity to modern society, the importance of dogged persistence in following one's dream, and the recognition that anyone with a camera can make a movie. Of course, you can ignore all that stuff if you want to. Herzlinger knows it's there, but he doesn't dwell on it. The primary purpose of My Date with Drew is to show one man's heroic struggle to sit down for a meal with the object of a lifelong crush, Drew Barrymore. Does he succeed? Consider the title before asking the question.

My Date with Drew functions as much as a primer on how to conduct underground filmmaking as it does an offbeat romantic comedy. (That classification is probably as big a misnomer as the documentary one. Outside of his fantasies, Herzlinger had no romantic designs on Barrymore. In fact, according to film critic Carrie Rickey, he became romantically linked with his producer, Kerry David.) My Date with Drew's mission statement was to make the movie for $1100 in 30 days. It came in on budget, although behind schedule. The video camera was "borrowed" from Circuit City. (At the time, the store had a 30-day free trail period.) Obviously, My Date with Drew was assembled in the editing room, but the three directors - Herzlinger and friends Jon Gunn and Brett Winn - know where to point the camera and have an understanding of basic filmmaking techniques, such as how to frame a shot.

The film is funny and sweet. It takes a little while to get going, and, near the beginning, you're tempted to agree with Bill D'Elia, who comments on the uselessness of Herzlinger's dream. "When I was your age," he notes, "My dream was world peace." Compared to that, going out on a date with Drew Barrymore is small potatoes. It doesn't take long, however, before we're rooting for Brian. He has managed to do what Myles Berkowitz failed at in his 1998 documentary, 20 Dates - make himself into a likeable character. Note to directors: if you're going to produce a documentary about yourself, make sure you come across as someone the audience will enjoy spending two hours with.

The pursuit of a celebrity has the potential to turn into something creepy. After all, there are at least as many stalkers in Hollywood as there are stars. So Herzlinger avoids anything that could be construed as stalking. Sure, he's a big fan, but he doesn't want to be disrespectful. So his initial strategy is to play the Six Degrees of Separation game (find someone who knows someone who knows Drew). When that doesn't work, he turns to the most powerful tool of his generation: the Internet. The website becomes his conduit to success.

We all like happy endings, so Brian gives us one. It would have been nice to see an epilogue recounting the movie's trip from completion to distribution, but I suppose that's a feature for the DVD release. In its current state, My Date with Drew is just about the right length, and contains enough feel-good energy to make it a crowd-pleaser. I'm a cynic, yet Brian won me over. But I wish we had gotten to see the promised chest-waxing to go along with the facial. Then again, some things are probably too gruesome for a PG rating.

My Date with Drew (United States, 2003)

Director: Jon Gunn, Brian Herzlinger, Brett Winn
Cast: Brian Herzlinger, Drew Barrymore
Cinematography: Jon Gunn, Brian Herzlinger, Brett Winn
Music: Stuart Hart, Steven M. Stern
U.S. Distributor: DEJ Productions
Run Time: 1:30
U.S. Release Date: 2005-08-05
MPAA Rating: "PG" (Nothing Objectionable)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1