Lovestruck Randy is thrilled when his prison pen pal Crystal is finally released and they can meet in person, but is woefully unprepared for the hard truths she brings along with her to their date…
Oh how we love well written stories. ‘Dinner and a Movie’ might not have mind-blowing synopsis line, but Ben Aston’s execution of it brings a wonderful experience to a level beyond. In case you missed it, we featured Ben’s short ‘Russian Roulette‘ a few days ago, a pleasantly simple film with an incredibly satisfying ending. ‘Dinner and a Movie’ tells the story of Randy Stubleski (Nathan Hennenfent), a lonely young man who turns to a prison dating website as a way to find true love. Designed as a mid-course exerceise for the London Film School ‘Dinner’ exceeded all expectations and has gone on to play at major international film festivals including Edinburgh IFF & Palm Springs.
The film was Inspired by the Channel 4 documentary ‘Jail Date’ by filmmaker Lizzie Wingham. Her television programme followed several men at different stages of relationships with female convicts. These men felt safe in these situations; it was shooting fish in a barrel – They got to be saviours, and these women could never run out on them. Our central character Randy thinks this way. He’s scared of love; he believes he has found a back door, a risk-free way of finding someone without exposing himself to the crushing possibility of being rejected.
The immaculate writing comes from Maria Hummer, an award winning writer and genuine midwesterner. Strangely enough, despite the film’s heavy midwestern roots, it was actually produced and in the UK, in and around London.
As far as the crew was concerned, ‘translating’ the story to the UK was never an option. A British film about people at the edge of society is inexorably a statement on class. We were desperate to avoid this paradigm and eager to play with the character archetypes – Trailer Trash, The Convict, The Biker – tropes that don’t completely translate to the UK. Tone remained our greatest ally in this decision. America, particularly the Midwest, is about expanse. That kind of loneliness is very different to the loneliness of a council estate. The dedication of the cast and crew ‘sells the States’ and helps deliver the audience an authentically American story.
The end result is a simple and astute enjoyable film, brought together by brilliant dark comedic writing and a stellar performance from the involved actors.