The youngish producers of a little movie called My Date With Drew (DEG, 8.5) — Jon Gunn, Brian Herzlinger, Brett Winn and Kerry David — have gone through an exhilarating ride as well as a cold and lonely one for the last 20 months or so, and it’s all been paradoxical.
All the buyers liked or loved Drew but all but one said no to a theatrical release because they felt it looks and feels too much like reality TV. And yet there’s no question this indie thing plays with 30-and-under audiences, and I mean in a big way.
My Date With Drew producer Jon Gunn, producer-star Brian Herzlinger.
I’ve seen Drew three times with a crowd, and I especially felt the excitement when I saw it a year and a half ago at the Vail Film Festival. Each time it’s made people smile, laugh, tear up, cheer. It’s one of the few films out this year that delivers a genuine emotional high, and when a film works as well as this one does it doesn’t matter what it resembles.
What matters is the heart and soul of it. For most people, the emotional-spiritual stuff is what sells tickets…if they hear the right things from their friends, that is.
There’s no reaching the gorillas who automatically see the latest piece-of-shit studio movie every weekend…Dukes of Hazzard, Stealth, The Island, etc.
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But there’s a whole ‘nother demographic out there…people with the ability to step outside the lab-rat syndrome in selecting films, people with a semblance of focus and inquisitiveness and a touch of emotionality…these are the ones who will presumably get Drew and turn it into something.
This surprisingly disarming 30-and-under date movie finally opens in theatres (in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas) on Friday, and then will fan out from there.
Here are the basic facts, and when I say “facts” I don’t mean impressions and/or opinions that I feel should be regarded as factual because I have this subjective fervor, blah, blah.
Drew is about this amiable, thick-bearded, beagle-eyed guy named Brian Herzlinger who, back in ’03, tried like hell to somehow land a date with Drew Barrymore…with the steady help of Gunn, Winn and David.
Brian’s been a Drew worshipper since he was 6 years old or something, but this is vaguely depressing to some of us so let’s not dwell.
They’ve got only $1100 to invest (which Herzlinger has won on a game show) and 30 days to get the date, since the camera they’re shooting with has been “bought,” in a manner of speaking, at a Circuit City store in Los Angeles that was offering a 30-day, no-questions asked return policy.
So Drew is a ticking-clock thing as well as a docu-comedy, but it gradually grows into something more….although it’s initially hard to see how this will happen, given an implicitly trite (although extremely well edited) blast-off section that sets everything up.
The film shows the crew using their limited Hollywood connections to get to anyone with the slightest relationship to Barrymore, including a cousin, a skin treatment specialist, Corey Feldman (who “went out” with her when she was 10), Charlie’s Angels screenwriter John August and actor Eric Roberts.
At the same time Herzlinger and David repeatedly call Barrymore’s Flower Films to try to persuade her “people” (especially company team-leader and closest Drew confidante Nancy Juvonen) to watch a 30-second trailer about the project, which of course they refuse to do.
This is standard Hollywood blow-off behavior for people who work for big-name celebs — saying no is always easier and less threatening than saying maybe, and keeping would-be invaders out of the inner sanctum and thereby maintaining a sense of cocooned reality is, of course, always the main priority.
All kinds of stuff happens, but the effort finally pays off when the team creates a website and the numbers get bigger and bigger and the smug-heads at Flower Films eventually wake up and pay attention.
To me, at first, Herzlinger seemed like a putz. What semi-intelligent male would come to a conclusion that spending two or three hours (or whatever amount of time it would eat up) with a rich, over-pampered, Hollywood ego princess like Drew Barrymore is worth sinking his heart and soul into? Not to mention all his financial resources?
But guess what? It doesn’t matter. This is not a film about Drew Barrymore. This is a film about gumption, positivism, tenacity, and working with your friends to somehow make your dream come true. It manages to pay off in ways that are largely unexpected and curiously shrewd. It’s a little-engine-that-could movie that sends you out shaking your head with amazement and wearing a big dumb grin.
Without getting too specific, it can be revealed that Barrymore does make an appearance in the film, and it struck me the last time I saw it that My Date with Drew is easily the most emotionally engaging thing she’s appeared in for quite a while.
What was Barrymore’s last half-decent movie? Confessions of a Dangerous Mind? Riding in Cars With Boys? Neither of these films makes her seem as lovable and well-rounded as she is in My Date with Drew. In fact, this $1200 video pic is almost enough to erase memories of the two Charlie’s Angels films. For Barrymore, Drew is a major karma-balancer alongside these lasting abominations.
Naturally, of course…Barrymore hasn’t done a single thing to help promote the Gunn-Herzlinger-Winn-David film.
Before the launching of the Iraq War a certain Fox Searchlight exec declared that Drew is too TV-ish and lacking in real-movie substance to warrant a theatrical run. Maybe she’s right — maybe Drew will fizzle like all the naysayers have predicted all along — but even if it does she and others like her will have still missed the point.
This movie has it where it counts. It delivers an emotional payoff that truly sinks in. See it this weekend and tell me I’m wrong.
Herzlinger, Gunn, Winn and David not only made a nifty little film, but they’ve parlayed its notoriety into the beginnings of industry careers, so good for them and a pat on the back for having the pluck and moxie that anyone needs to make it in this town.
“While on a camping trip last week in Kanaskis Country in Alberta, Canada, my family and I were about to go on a hike around Upper Lake (about an hour away from Calgary) when a guy with a walkie-talkie came running up and politely asked us to move as we were in the shot of a movie they were filming. It turned out that in the middle of the Canadian Rockies we had stumbled onto the outdoor set of a new Robin Williams comedy called RV.
“Williams plays an overworked man who abruptly loads his family into an RV en route to Colorado, hoping they won’t discover he is actually going there to attend a business meeting. It’s being directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. The costars include Jeff Daniels and Curb Your Enthusiasm star Cheryl Hines (i.e., Larry David’s beleaguered wife).
“We asked if we could watch some of the filming and the walkie-talkie said sure. So we took some pictures and now you’re running one that gives away one of the big sight gags!
“We got to see Robin chase his RV down a hill and then watch as it sinks into the lake. W e also got to see him film a dialogue scene right after he gets out of the water. His wife asks him why he needs a $4,000 bike, and he says its because his hips are out of alignment. She then asks if she is happy now because his kids know their dad is a freak.
“They were using 2 RVs. The one parked at the top of the hill and a separate one already sunk in the lake with the back half of it still sticking out of the water rigged with a cable holding it in place. When they filmed the scene the cable was released and the RV started to sink completely under water as Robin chases it. We later saw this one after it was pulled out of the water and it was just a shell with nothing inside.
“Robin looked to be in good shape and was clean shaven. He wore a green shirt and kakhi pants. He and Cheryl both had doubles on the set dressed like them but the doubles just sat around and never got involved. Robin gamely ran into the water numerous times and it was very cold. We got to see Sonnenfeld direct. He was wearing a white cowboy hat and smoking a cigar.
“We took our hike after the crew shut down for the day. Near the top of a mountian there was an open area which my daughter scanned with binoculers, and she saw a grizzly bear was rambling along the top of this ridge, probably looking for berries to eat. It was awesome…. the real reason we went camping.
“It was kind of amusing to think about the cast and crew being driven back to the comfort of their hotels while we headed back to our campsite in the woods.” — Charles Buckner
“I don’t see why everyone is blaming director Christopher Columbus in advance for the possible failure of Rent (Columbia, 11.11). I mean, it’s Rent! Sugar bleeds from this thing.
“If you should blame anyone, blame Jonathan Larson, the author and composer. It’s really horrible the way he died and all, but there’s kind of a reason it took him so long to bust through.
“He workshopped it too much and he really didn’t know too many people in the biz so funds and staging were a constant problem.
The cast of Christopher Columbus’s Rent
“Another factor is that the lyrics to most of the songs sound like he wrote them in his diary, like a teenage girl would write during a slumber party…fluff tunes that would make everyone happy and given them something to perform and be forgotten later, but remembered fondly in their later years.
“If Larson had lived, he could have seen the off-Broadway premiere of Rent and had that for comfort. I remember when that play came out — you could not turn on the TV without hearing how he died and the success of Rent.
“There are only two types of people who like Rent: (a) hipster types who listen to bland pop music, and (b) depressed individuals who need a severe pick me up.” — Alfred Ramirez, Fort Worth, Texas.
“I’m looking forward to Grizzly Man (Lions Gate, 8/12). Shit, Herzog’s been blowing my mind for almost 30 years, and there are powerful forces at work in any universe in which someone can make a film like “Aguirre” at the age of 29.
“At the same time I’m not buying his Herzogian disingenuousness about not including the audio tape of the bear attack because he’s “not making a snuff film.” First, that negates the definition of “snuff film.” Second, while I haven’t seen the film, I can clearly picture the scene you’ve described: of Herzog listening to the tape on camera, and then telling the owner to burn it.
Grizzly Man director Werner Herzog
“And the way I’m picturing it, at least, this is likely to be every bit as disturbing, albeit in a different and more director-calculated way, than the tape itself. And perhaps more so? I mean, start with ‘less is more’ and go on from there. Of all the possible uses Herzog might have made of this tape in his film, isn’t this the one that seems the most Herzogian? (I promise I will never write, or say, “Herzogian” after this email.)
“To me, the most haunting and disturbing image in Herzog’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God was that of the young Spanish noblewoman, dressed in her absurd 16th century finery, walking trance-like into the jungle after she discovers her husband has been assassinated, while a battle rages around her.
“She’s committing suicide — either by wild animal, starvation, or who-knows-what at the hands of the natives — but clearly, SHE DOESN’T CARE, and Herzog simply shows the jungle closing around her. I have pondered the realities of her fate so many, many times since I first saw that film.” — Josh Mooney
“What’s with all of the critique of women in the WIRED posts the last couple of times?” — James Kiehl
Wells to Kiehl: Whatsername in the Toronto paper wrote the thing about Jessica Simpson — I just commented on it. And MSNBC’s Eric Lundergaard wrote his piece about sexy women and I just riffed on it…what?
Kiehl to Wells: It doesn’t really seem to be your forte. That Lundergaard article was kinda crappy, but the least you could have done was counter it with five sexy women of your own to prove the point. Just criticizing a critic seems silly, especially when you are a critic yourself.
Wells to Kiehl: I did post a favorite…Anouk Aimee in the ’60s and ’70s!
Kiehl to Wells: Anyhow, don’t you remember when Britney acted like Jessica does now? We loved her.
Wells to Kiehl: I didn’t! She’s a lame-o!
Kiehl to Wells: This is not some seismic shift to the dumb blonde worship. We’ve been there for years. Marilyn Monroe, anyone?
Wells to Kiehl: Monroe played “dumb blonde,” but by the mid ’50s it was evident in her performances and off-screen behavior that she was hurting big-time on a personal level, and that gave her soul. Plus she attended Lee Strasberg’s New York class plus she married Arthur Miller, etc. Monroe was a full meal and a complicated wreck, aching and striving and having breakdowns and all that. Jessica and Britney are little pieces of drug-store candy compared to her.