Date Night

It's the seed of the whole plot, but I'm sorry, this couple is not discontent. Which is to say I would have been quite content for them to continue lazily, guiltily going to the same dreary place for dinner every "date night", endlessly deferring sex for some other night, and becoming (god forbid) "excellent housemates". But for some reason or other--I'm guessing because there was a movie to be made--this was a nightmare scenario. You wouldn't know it, though, watching the two of them. They seem quite pleased with themselves engaged in what appears to be the foundational pleasure of their relationship: making up stories about the couples at the other tables. And I would be quite pleased to have such uproarious company. But no. There has to be a problem to fix.

There being to my mind no problem to fix, you can imagine that the build-up to its resolution was to me a declension. Everything, depressingly, slides into place: Carrel's character rediscovers his masculinity, and Fey's remembers how to supplicate. The comedians manage not to get subsumed into the genre action flick they poke fun at, but slip instead into the sad conventions of a romantic comedy. Their complaints against each other are just cliche mercenaries hired for their pointless arguments. He leaves drawers and toilet seats open. She does every domestic task because she doesn't trust he can do anything right. I find myself, unsurprisingly, on her side. When it turns out he's compotent at planning their escape from the criminal mess they stumbled into, I'm incredulous. He has to explain everything to her, twice, because "you know I've never been good with complicated plots." After his second explanation, I'm still lost.

It's noteworthy that the only way out of the ossification of marriage, in this film, is mortal danger. Their complaint is that their life together is too smooth, which is after all the advantage of having an income and a spouse, in theory. During the course of their crazy night, their motives get mixed up. They're trying to get out of danger, to "just go home", but they're trying to get in as many scrapes with death as possible to avoid the routine of their marriage. These two drives are crystalized in conflation when, after a half-frank, half-sappy discussion in which Fey's character says she doesn't dream of running off with another man, but of being alone, they pause at a window pane: "this will be our second time breaking and entering this evening, making us repeat offenders." "Better than excellent houesmates."

Oddest of all about this movie is its paradox: to reconstitute the dull, it must be shaken up. There are a lot of politically correct gender gestures in the shaking up (he's a better pole dancer, she has the balls to break into an office), but ultimately it's a shake-down. They go through all this so that their normativity might feel like it has more "panache." Which is the word the husband uses, comically, to describe the heroic drive to the city he's gonna--by god--take his wife on. They end up stuck in traffic.

24 September 2012