In honor of Dutch provocateur Theo van Gogh—who was murdered in 2004 by an Islamic extremist, angered by one of his films—Van Gogh’s producers initiated an English-language trilogy of remakes based on his early two-handers. Steve Buscemi’s Interview was canned and limp. Next at bat is director and star Stanley Tucci’s Blind Date, which similarly suffers from the restrictions of the project (it’s overly faithful to the original and to Van Gogh’s preferred three-camera setup). Tucci and Patricia Clarkson share a bruised chemistry as an estranged couple bound by grief and anger over the death of their young daughter. In a bizarre ritual more torturous than cathartic (insert Antichrist joke here), the two meet regularly at Tucci’s dingy cabaret and role-play blind dates, their improvised characters admitting painful truths in the margins of conversation each night. Co-adapted by Tucci and Interview‘s David Schechter, the dialogue isn’t nearly as slippery as the stop-on-a-dime spins between melancholy, misanthropy, and disarming humor in Clarkson and Tucci’s deliveries—but the actors chase the text like a chew toy anyway. Stagey pacing and unnecessary magic-realist voiceover aside, the film’s ultimate failure as moving melodrama is that we experience these two acting as a dance partner, a reporter—even a blind man—but we never get who they really are, beyond grieving parents.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 22, 2009