Sundance 2021: First Date

Tyson Brown and Shelby Duclos appear in First Date by Manuel Crosby and Darren Knapp, an official selection of the NEXT section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Manuel Crosby.

First Date, screening in Sundance’s NEXT program, is will certainly a contender for the best debut feature whenever it comes out in theaters. Or streaming.  But hopefully theaters.

I should stress that there is a scene during the credits.

It takes a lot of guts to ask someone out for the first time.  I get it, Mike (Tyson Brown).  Taking the first step isn’t easy but you’ve got to do it sometime.  Okay, so the whole romance thing isn’t my apartment at all but that’s really beside the point.  What I like about the film is how it reminds me so much of Superbad but with a major dose of violence.  No, really.  Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.  Plenty does happen to go wrong but in the most comical ways possible.  All because Mike wanted to ask out Kelsey (Shelby Duclos)!

Mike’s biggest problem after mustering up the courage to ask out Kelsey is finding the necessary transportation.  This is easier said than done.  His parents are going out of town so their car is immediately ruled out.  I laughed hysterically at how happy they were.  I’m talking Eugene Levy in American Pie happy if you’d like to get an idea.  So with their car out, Mike gets his hands on a 1965 Chrysler.  This is a bad idea from the get go!  The gist of what happens next:

  • Cops target them
  • A criminal gang shows up
  • A vengeful cat lady.  Don’t ask.  Just go with it.
  • I won’t tell you anything more than this in terms if the plot itself.

Manuel Crosby and Darren Knapp use First Date to pay homage to the great filmmakers of the 1990s and 2000s.  I’m looking at this film and it reminds me of Quentin Tarantino, the Coen Brothers, Kevin Smith, and more.  They are the filmmakers who made their films outside the system and still found a way to make it big.

But more than Superbad, I almost feel like Parasite is a better comparison.  You cannot just nail down a single genre in this film.  It is, to put it so frankly, impossible!  When I say that this film is all over the place, I mean it in the best way possible.  We have comedy, teen movie, action, thriller, and the traditional coming-of-age story.  You know what?  First Date is what happens when you walk up to the Coca-Cola machine at the movie theater and decide to put everything into your cup.  You might think it’s a bad idea but at the end of the day, it actually works!

I’ve seen some beautiful films in the NEXT program and First Date could very well be the next hit to come from it.  When we look back on this unique Sundance in a few years from now, we’ll be able to say that’s where Manuel Crosby and Darren Knapp were discovered.  If you missed out on the world premiere, it’s not too late to miss out on an encore screening.  Trust me when I say that you will not regret it!  If you’re working for acquisitions at a studio, please pick up this film!

DIRECTORS/SCREENWRITERS: Manuel Crosby and Darren Knapp
CAST: Tyson Brown, Shelby Duclos, Jesse Janzen, Nicole Berry, Scott Noble, Leah Finity, Ryan Quinn Adams, Angela Barber, Dave Reimer, Samantha Laurenti, Jake Howard, Shari Schweigler, Graham Green, Brandon Kraus, Josh Fesler, and Todd Goble

First Date holds its world premiere during the 2021 Sundance Film Festival in the NEXT program.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.