If you follow my selections here on Short of the Week somewhat regularly, you’ll know that I’m a bit of an unapologetic romantic comedy fan. I love me a well-told story of boy meets girl. But, what about a film where the two in question never actual meet? Well—you know—meet in real life?
Playing out like Cyrano De Bergerac for the the digital age, You There? from director Stanley Brode is a smartly written, strongly performed identity swap romantic comedy about insecure Brad—a confidence-less Romeo in search of his sarcastic Juliet. Brad has really started hitting it off with Annie online. The only issue? He catfished her—using his roommate’s handsome mug instead of his own for the profile picture. As you can imagine, comedic hijinks ensue.
But, high concept premise aside, this film does a litany of things well. For one, it really captures the essence of online dating. You know, that digital playground that just oozes with wit, snark, and anonymity. Being superficially slick online? That’s easy. Dealing with the deeper level of human connection that comes from actually interacting with someone? That’s damn hard.
This film stirred up memories of my own experiments with digital matchmaking. Back in the day, I quickly determined online dating to be an intense contest between people desperately attempting to be more clever than one another. Or, as I like to call it now: “the internet.”
Brode’s film really captures that sense of joke one-upmanship that permeates our online interactions (the opening is especially great). But, beyond that, his screenplay is peppered with clever one-liners told expertly by some fine comedic performers. I especially enjoyed Neal Bledsoe’s turn as the protagonist’s handsome proxy. He’s just the right combination of narcissist and buffoon. In other words, an actor (sorry…thespians…I couldn’t resist).
If I have a complaint, I wish the ending felt a bit more climactic. But, admittedly, that’s just how life sometimes works. Not every romantic comedy can end in sweeping embrace and swelling orchestration. Here, we are offered a low-key look at reality—a protagonist who needs to learn to accept himself before he can start offering himself to others.Brode and his fellow collaborators at Assemblage of Nouns (including the very talented Jessalyn Maguire) are currently preparing a feature film to be shot this summer. In the meantime, check out their other short form work.