Written and directed by Chris Esper (The Deja Vuers, Still Life), Undatement Center is a humorous look at the capricious world of modern dating. It is almost an indictment against the millennial age of computer reliance and the awkwardness of real-life interaction with people we find attractive.
Jack (Trevor Duke) finally decides, after a 12 year break, to get back into the dating game. As befits the modern day man, he opts to join a dating company “Undatement” which is a combination of real world Tinder and speed dating. The poor chap soon realizes that getting back into the dating game requires intensive paperwork, a resume and a draw on his pocket book.
A spin on the old maxim of kissing a lot of frogs to find a prince, Jack endures a lot of rejection. After some specious and confusing let downs for no apparent reason, he finally decides to take control; at a price. He soon finds that things are not any easier in the driver’s seat and Jack discovers that the early rejection’s came about for a reason.
Esper’s take on the modern world of dating and all the issues surrounding the search for a mate is funny, acerbic and surprising relevant. Jack’s struggle is amusing and we feel his frustration and underlying fear.
Like most of the prospective candidates in Undatement Center, Jack is afraid of being hurt (again) and yet he continues to look for a special someone to be with. Esper gives us the dating world sans sex, this is not a journey to find a sexual partner but is, instead, a man wanting to find a woman to share things with.
This slightly “old fashioned” take on the dating game is refreshing and it plays well against the frustration of our hero. Jack goes through several stages in his search, after forking out some long green to take charge of his dating quest and at one point he comically dishes out some payback to an earlier “contestant.”
The director’s final message is a simple one and cuts to the heart of the matter. “New and different, is not better.” Jack finds that underneath the surface artifice and “structure” of the Undatement Center’s controlled dating scenario, it is the human touch that matters most.
We do not doubt that Jack has learned a valuable lesson from his interaction with the business-like candidates he interacts with and Esper ends his tale on a uplifting note. There is some doubt as to how the whole thing will turn out but, like the film’s humanistic message, we feel that things will move forward at their own pace and not be driven by some superficial agenda set by a company or society.
Trevor Duke gives a fine restrained performance as the man who reluctantly re-enters the dating game. His controlled frustration and confusion fits his character perfectly.
J.D. Achille as Lindsey is also spot on. Apart from being a delight to look at, her character has an inner confidence and conviction that Achille brings to the fore with a truth that leaves no room for doubt.
The entire cast bring something to the table in this story of urine samples, multi-page resumes (CV’s) and baffling rejection.
Undatement Center is a 5 star effort that entertains and makes a valid and pertinent social comment on the state of looking for love in this day and age of dating apps and swiping to the left or right. Esper has proven, with his latest effort, that his earlier successes are no fluke and that he can consistently deliver the goods.