Do You Feel Lucky?

(and feel free to comment! My older posts are certainly no less relevant to the burning concerns of the day.)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

In Defense of Dinner and a Movie

A lot of people knock "dinner and a movie" as a date idea. They say it's uncreative. They say it shows a lack of imagination. But they sure don't neglect to order desert while they're at it! And a coffee drink.

Well, "dinner and a movie" may be much-maligned, but I'm here to defend it, particularly as a first date. Very important: when I say "dinner and a movie," I do not mean, in that order. No. The movie absolutely needs to come first. And it needs to be known that way, when the whole thing is set up. Have a snack before the movie! Tide you over. None of this, show up "oh, I'm starving! Let's have dinner first!" No. Have a snack first. Tide you over. I have an apple. That's what I have. For you, maybe have one of those grain-juice-nuts-plus-unidentified-natural-substance-bars you look like you'd probably enjoy. Very holistic. Tide you over.

Because if you go to dinner first, what the hell? You barely know this person, you have shared nothing together as a couple - what are you going to talk about? And so after an awkward-ass dinner, you sit awkwardly in the dark for two hours increasingly dreading the credits and the next necessary conversational steps to extract yourselves from the evening. Well, no wonder people think "dinner and a movie" is a bad idea! Because they're stupid, and they do it in the obviously wrong order.

Note: when I say a snack to tide you over, probably best not to have popcorn. That won't tide you over. It'll spoil your appetite. All that puffed salted greased corn! Sit there like an inflatable rock.

When you go into a date movie first, dinner second, suddenly the whole perfect date dynamic slides into alignment. You meet, you exchange pleasantries, you go to the theater to see the movie you've picked out - maybe it's one you both have high hopes for, maybe it's one you both think is just worth a crack and no particular expectation - whatever it is! You're both going into it cold, just like you're going into the date cold, and that theater experience is a perfect warmer-upper, a perfect way to share some space and time in a low-pressure environment (unless one of you is the peculiar type of person who refuses to give any input into the selection, yet then somehow blames the other person if the film is bad!). You're thrust right close to each other, but still all deliciously unsure of what moves are approved. Proximity plus uncertainty? That's pretty exciting math! Perhaps you'll have a chance to smell each others' hair, or brush shoulders, arms, hands. Maybe some shock-spurred forearm-gripping going on! Dare either of you actually go in for the hand-hold?? D'you like a little drama with your movie...? And as the movie gets deeper in, you're starting to get a little hungry, starting to look forward to that dinner! Anticipation is the mother of chemistry.

I want to point out a misconception, here: it doesn't matter if the movie ends up being bad. The only thing that matters is that both people need to go into it with the right mindset: film is a crapshoot. Let's both choose together, a film we think is a good entertainment risk, and then good or bad let's use that film as a springboard for discussion. Some of the best dinner dates I've had have been after some of the worst movies! We both joined in with vicious glee eviscerating the film's flaws, expressing outrage over how great certain aspects could have been, making fun of certain egregious lapses in plot or dialog. Human nature being what it is, bonding over a shared experience of awfulness can often be far more intense and enjoyable than appreciating a merely good experience.

If the film is good, or great, that's equally rich conversational fodder for a nice dinner date! You two can share what you each loved about it, and the things about the human soul that it exalted, perhaps. Or laid bare, if it was a deeply-drawn tragedy. Whether the film was good, bad or indifferent, you'll have plenty of opportunities to contrast it with other films, or leave the field of film behind and examine the wider themes and issues that were developed, discussing whether you would agree with how it was presented or advance another view. From there the conversation can go anywhere, always free to double back around to what you both just shared and say, "Oh - what did you think of this...?"

All of this is a perfect way to get to know a little about somebody. It ain't the movie that matters. Movies aren't the most important things in life, folks - but how a person thinks, reacts to ideas, forms and puts across an opinion - these are vitally important things. Things you want to know about a person, especially if you're thinking about spending any future time with them. The movie - good, bad, or indifferent - hopefully it was a worthwhile flick in its own right, but really it's just a good pretext and catalyst, to see how a person looks at art, and life, and whether they've got a thought in their head about anything, or could care less. I'll give you an example from a few years back:
A: "This is a good place. You been here before?"

B: "No, first time! Smells terrific."

[it does indeed]

A: "So. What did you think of The Forgotten, featuring Julianne Moore?"

[her face sets, eyes narrowing slightly - she can tell this is a test of sorts!]

B: "Well, there were some parts that didn't quite hang together, but I think the escalating frustration and anxiety of the mother were conveyed well. Good performance by Moore and a strong, even hand on tone from the director. Even the parts that didn't make sense, for me, heightened the nightmare aspect and almost worked in the film's favor. What did you think?"

A: "Stupidest fucking film I ever saw. How's the lobster bisque?"

[her face sets, eyes narrowing slightly - she can tell this is a test of sorts!]
Anyway, that's enough to give you the idea. It just built better and better from there. But the key to the whole thing is: movie first.



Unknown said...


Lunarchick said...

My all time favorite date has always been dinner and a movie. Of course I am a bit movie mad and so is the husband so that works in our favor.
Besides since we are married types I guess it doesn't really count anyway :-)

dogimo said...

@Eva: thank you!

@Alice: oh no no! Not at all - it really counts! I'm glad you brought that up, I kind of short-shrifted that.

The focus of the article is on the movie&dinner date as a first date, but I think the movie/dinner dynamic is just as important to a long-term setup - especially if you both love movies! What a perfect date night that is: you get a chance to share a movie, preferably one you've both looked forward to, and then you can relax after together and leisurely explore and dissect what you just saw while its still fresh, while you're both still taking it in and forming opinions. A really awesome movie you can just soak and luxuriate in, over a great dinner. But honestly I think the disappointing movies can make the best dates sometimes, especially if you're with someone you know where you each kind of know what the other's after. The question of "what went wrong?" is a complex and fascinating one to those who are really into the ways and means of how movies are made.

Of course: the dinner better be good. There's no redeeming conversation value to them screwing up the food! Funny how that works.