April 15th, 2017
Review by Mark Schwab
I always hear from my single friends about how dating really sucks. The only thing it seems good for is side-splitting stories over cheap red wine about how awful and awkward the process is. That should make it fertile ground for comedy and Chris Esper's 9-minute short film UNDATEMENT CENTER does its best to plant seeds hoping to yield a crop of laughs but came up a bit fallow for me unfortunately.
Trevor Duke stars as Jack, a rather typical 26 year old who has become tired of being single and decides on the most efficient way to change that - head to an UNdatement Center where one can become "interviewed" by prospective mates for the "position" of a relationship. It's kind of like speed dating without the speed.
That is a totally solid comedic premise for a short film but it isn't taken nearly as far as it should have been. It goes for safe smiles instead of pushing for edgy laughs. One example is when Jack first arrives at the center and needs to "register" with the receptionist. One of the intake questions he is asked is when his last relationship ended and he responds "12 years". Now we know Jack is 26 years old meaning his last relationship ended when he was 14. But that isn't acknowledged at all except for a curt "Why so long?" then its dropped. When Jack gets desperate enough to fork out $500 to be the interviewer instead of the viewee - another good and promising set-up - not much is done with it and the story just wades into the shallow end of the pool by tying everything up with a nice bow. When the actual dating stories my friends have told me are funnier than the scripted movie, it's not taking enough risks.
UNDATEMENT CENTER has an appealing, well-directed cast (Duke does a particularly good job in the lead role) and high indie production values for sure but the constant muted comedic potential makes the movie feel like a race car outfitted with a rev limiter. If you put some nitrous into this premise and set-up it could really tear up the screen with laughs.
Be sure to check out the film's website here - http://storiesmotion.com/undatement-center