Like an obnoxious four-year-old who believes everything he does is fascinating and adorable, filmmaker Myles Berkowitz likes to announce, at the very start of a first date, that certain foods cause him to suffer from diarrhea or constipation. Later, he asks his browbeaten dinner companion if she thinks he is cute. "Do you like me?" he simpers, in his fingernails-on-a-blackboard voice. "How much?"
In a better world, we wouldn't have to know this. Berkowitz's knack for annoying everyone he meets would be familiar only to a small circle of unfortunate acquaintances in Los Angeles, where he labors, none too successfully, as a writer- director. But Berkowitz is a man with a movie camera, and a financial backer, and he had the grandiose idea of filming himself and 20 luckless women but mostly himself as they embark on a series of first dates. Though a few victims consent up front to being filmed, others are shot with a hidden camera and ambushed at the conclusion of dinner. One woman appears to be hurt almost beyond tears by this deception. Another stabs him in the hand, but sadly this scene is not included.
20 Dates is also padded with clips from popular romantic movies Singin' in the Rain, Titanic and interviews with screenwriting guru Robert McKee, who gently points out that Berkowitz isn't capable of making a movie about love, or longing, since he doesn't know how to feel either emotion. The movie's best observations come from its sinister, unseen producer, who sneers at Berkowitz, "You're making a cartoon piece of shit . . . that ends with you jerking off by yourself." Begins and ends, actually.
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