Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Film Appreciation - She Loses Control

Cody Hamman sets up Film Appreciation with the 1987 comedy Blind Date.

Watching director Blake Edwards' comedy Blind Date thirty-one years after its release, I can't imagine there were many movie watching young children who shared my stance on this one in the late '80s. It's a fact: back when I was around four years old, Blind Date was one of my favorite movies to watch. That seems odd to say now, because there's not much in here that you might expect would appeal to a little kid. At the same time, I can see why I liked it, because it is a really good, amusing film. A movie I unexpectedly enjoyed at four, I also enjoy at the more appropriate age of thirty-four.

Scripted by Dale Launer with uncredited rewrites by Edwards, Leslie Dixon, Tom Ropelewski, and Michael Alan Eddy, the story centers on Walter David (Bruce Willis, a year before Die Hard), an overworked and high-strung office worker who is constantly hearing stories of his engaged co-worker's over-the-top casual sexual encounters but is unlucky in love himself. He agrees to be set up on a blind date with his sister-in-law's cousin Nadia Gates (Kim Basinger), and brings along a bottle of champagne on this date even though he has been warned that Nadia "loses control" when she's drunk. Or maybe because of that warning. When Walter's brother Ted (Phil Hartman) says "she loses control" and "gets real wild", it doesn't sound like an unpleasant thing.

Nadia starts out demure, but when she gets drunk things do get very unpleasant for Walter. Her southern accent comes out as she begins speaking her mind, peppering in vulgarities. She giggles, she stumbles, she wreaks havoc at a business dinner by pointing out rude and sexist behaviors and breaking up bad relationships.

The havoc continues outside that dinner as Walter tries to get Nadia home, a mission that proves to be much more complicated than it should be - especially since they're being pursued every mile of the way by Nadia's obsessed, belligerent ex David (John Larroquette), who is outraged by the thought that Walter might try to "drill" Nadia.

The presence of Larroquette in the cast was definitely a major reason why I loved Blind Date so much as a kid, because I was already a big fan of his from his work on the sitcom Night Court. Add in the fact that David crashes his car multiple times over the course, becoming more and more of a mess as he runs into businesses like an exotic animal pet shop and a paint store, and you can see why a little kid would think his part was funny.

Walter's appearance goes downhill as well, and he becomes understandably frazzled as his entire life crumbles around him thanks to Nadia's drunken shenanigans. I always really liked these comedies that showed the gradual deconstruction of characters and their property - the stuff that happens to Walter and David here is sort of like Buford T. Justice's car falling apart piece by piece in Smokey and the Bandit.

The blind date portion of Blind Date really only takes us to the hour mark of the 95 minute movie. There's plenty of story left to tell after that, showing how Walter and Nadia deal with the aftermath of their crazy night out on the town. Part of the aftermath involves Nadia staying in David's childhood home with his parents, and in his parents' mansion Edwards gets to craft a lengthy sequence of Walter moving in and out of the house, trying to keep from getting spotted by its residents or eaten by the guard dog Rambo. It's a classic comedy scenario that Edwards put together perfectly.

Blind Date seems to be largely overlooked at this point, which is a shame because it holds up as a solid comedy with great, memorable performances from Willis, Basinger, Larroquette, and Hartman, as well as William Daniels as David's father. I watched the hell out of this movie when I was a kid, renting it on VHS and catching it on cable with my maternal grandmother, and it's still something I could rewatch on a regular basis now.

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