A DATE WITH MISS FORTUNE: New-Release Film Review
Although all film genres can be characterized by their typical conventions and tropes, romantic comedy (“rom-com”) is probably one of the more formulaic. In a typical rom-com story, greatly exaggerated (and sometimes outlandish) problems stand in the way of a romantic relationship. One of the marks of the successful rom-com is how well it entertains viewers with both the romance between the main characters and the comedy of the obstacles that they must overcome. “A Date With Miss Fortune” (2015), a Canadian film directed by John L’Ecuyer, does well in both areas.
The screenplay, written by Ryan Scott and Jeannette Sousa (who also played the lead roles), uses flashbacks and flash-forwards to tell the story of Maria (Sousa) and Jack (Scott), two young adults who are both on the rebound from failed relationships. Maria is a beautiful and intelligent Portuguese woman who is also very religious. Jack is an Anglo writer for television who specializes in sit-coms. He is as skeptical as Maria is superstitious. Will Maria be his “Miss Fortune” — or add to his misfortune?
The two meet in a diner, where Maria is mourning the breakup of her engagement with a Portuguese physician. By chance, Jack stops in for a quick bite. He has plans to catch a one-way flight to London, where he is supposed to meet his writing partner, Wilson (Vik Sahay), whose name is perhaps a nod to the Tom Hanks movie “Cast Away” (2000). The two hope to revive their flagging writing careers as expatriates, as they have just suffered a major setback in the North American television market.
Jack also recently lost a marriage to his career ambitions, but his ex-wife has not disappeared entirely from his life. She just happens to be in the diner with her successful fiance when Jack arrives. Jack also notices Maria, whom he attempts to enlist in a ruse. In an attempt to cover up his self-perceived failure, he asks Maria to pretend to be on a date with him. Although Maria first flatly refuses, she gains sympathy for Jack as his ex attempts to humiliate him by showing off her man and her large engagement ring. Maria one-ups Jack’s plea by pretending to be his fiancee.
This situation is a romantic comedy staple, but it’s pulled off well in this film. By creating a fledgling emotional bond between Maria and Jack, it sets the stage for them to linger in the diner to get to know each other. While they’re trying to impress each other, they’re both also somewhat wary of getting involved in a new relationship. Nevertheless, their mutual attraction strengthens with each minute. They begin to idealize each other, as couples are wont to do at the start of a new love.
We all know what happens when reality intrudes upon our idealized image of the person we love. As illusions shatter, incompatibilities become apparent, but can they be overcome? This film uses its story structure to compare and contrast Maria and Jack’s early fantasies about each other with the less-than-ideal truth. As a result, we flash forward and back in the history of their relationship. The payoff is high in both dramatic and comedic terms.
In a rom-com, the comedic obstacles to romance come from outside the romantic relationship, as well as from within it. In “A Date with Miss Fortune,” the external problems stem from the exaggerated cultural biases of Maria’s family and Jack’s clumsy, inept efforts to cope with them. As Indiewire notes, this subplot makes the film “a Big Fat Portuguese Wedding,” at least in spirit. While “A Date with Miss Fortune” borrows the trope of incompatible family cultures from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” (2002 – interestingly enough, Tom Hanks, whose family is Portuguese on his mother’s side, was one of the producers), it does not merely copy it. While grossly exaggerated for comic effect, the portrayal of Maria’s Portuguese family apparently rings true. When the film premiered in Portugal in August of last year, it did well.
In association with First Pond Entertainment and Northern Banner, Vision Films released “A Date With Miss Fortune” in Canada and the United States in February. Although it has completed its limited theatrical run, the film is available on DVD and via VOD. It can be found on Netflix (DVD) and Amazon Instant (VOD). Fans of romantic comedy should not miss this one. Make sure to keep an eye out for a cameo from recording star Nelly Furtado, who (like the film) hails from Canada.
Disclosure: Loud Green Bird provided this “fair and honest” review in exchange for access (provided by Sicily Publicity) to an online screener of the film. No financial considerations were involved.