20 Dates


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,