By C. RICH DEC. 5, 2017
“Holy Hyde,“ Susan’s latest dating debacle, is her wildest adventure thus far given her bland offerings in recent years. The story begins as we watch her typical entre into a dependent relationship by — falling hard and quickly — with an inability to keep her wits about her. But this time, she shows uncharacteristic reserve with her biggest dating challenge ever. Her date, a worldly-type Don Juan, gives her small-town existence some modern fairy tale beats through his choreographed date-night sequence leading to a twist she didn’t see coming.
Susan’s date puts her squarely in a Shakespearean emotional tragedy, dropping us and our heroine by movie’s end into a hotbed of unanswered questions. Only but for the most film noir fans, the unsatisfying ending left me mollified the next day with my lingering reflection on the main characters’ interaction.
Susan’s quest to find The One, and understand how she fits into life, is on display in “Holy Hyde.” Will this man end Susan’s struggle to find long-term romance? Will her life have meaning and wholeness in romantic partnership as society conditioned her with at age three?
The rendezvous is set in the Midwest, with Mr. Blind Date — an internationally sought out professor who knows Europe better than his favorite bottle of scotch — picking Susan up in his Jaguar. His attire is straight from the pages of GQ — spot on, impeccable.
Self-deprecating, his charm catches Susan off-guard, which results in a heady rush. He offers up scintillating conversation with her, the bartender, and everyone he encounters. He tells Susan, “Listen, since I have the pleasure of your company, and you’ve seen fit to put up with me, I imagine I’m the lucky one this evening.”
Dates like this are rare for Susan. Unexpected. She conveys to us through her body language and eye movement that she is instantly intrigued. Mr. Date plays his role of savoir-faire well.
Trying not to get too excited, Susan is swept off her feet minutes after their arrival at a swank bar. Her inner emotional rollercoaster surrenders to the relaxation that romantic relations with an aware man brings. Susan’s falling-in-love quickening breath signals Mr. Date that his date mining is going well.
Establishing shots in the bar set the mood. Dark-paneled walls guard the attached deep-red banquettes. The custom wood table, with a single glass votive’s flickering flame, dances off the designer cocktail glasses. The lights from the street bokeh blur, silhouetting the bar staff, as they move like shadowy figures, not interrupting the tryst of Susan and Mr. Date.
We watch as Susan succumbs to the moment of a man so present with her. Aware of this, Mr. Date reappears from the restroom to sit a few inches closer knowing its predictable effect on Susan. He offhandedly starts talking about Paris — one day we both should go — as he settles the bill, adding, “Perhaps if you can bear to put up with me for a while longer, we might grab a bite to eat?”
Soon enough, we discover that Mr. Date’s allure, in part, stems from pairing the unassuming suggestion with the spectacular outcome. “I’ll clean the old car and pick you up,” said of his shiny Jaguar sportscar. “Let’s meet up this Friday,” suggests casual, but he arrives dressed in a tailored sports jacket that barely disguises his athletic build. “Grab a bite” means a sushi chef makes a special delivery to Mr. Date’s magnificently modern, high-rise penthouse.
If you are familiar with Susan’s previous date movies, they depict ordinary male characters and outings. But, in “Holy Hyde,” Susan sidesteps a shabby Olive Garden plotline in favor of the magical notes of a fairy-tale-dream date, complete with lightning outside Mr. Date’s two-story apartment window.
Bypassing brain activity, Susan’s relaxed primal softness with Mr. Date sets the stage for the inevitable first kiss. We can feel her body melt under his prowess. Susan expresses herself in a murmur, “This feels magical.”
Then, in a sudden twist, Mr. Date jekylls into Mr. Hyde. With no question or provocation, he erupts with a mad desire to consume Susan — then and there — foreplay be damned. The action quickly escalates as Susan finds she doesn’t possess enough hands to keep his seeming eight off her.
Confused as to where she missed the clue signaling a sudden shift in the evening, we see Susan try to make sense of Mr. Hyde and her safety, as she reverts to primal survival mode, walking the thin line of not appearing terrified while trying to remain in control and exit his apartment. Stating “NO!” multiple times, the physical struggle morphs into as a Twister sofa game. Susan gathers her purse and with feigned authority gets out the door. Mr. Hyde complains of his blue balls.
The movie serves up the country’s current topic of sexual assault and inappropriateness and at the point at which a man becomes a predator. We could speculate that Mr. Date had carefully choreographed the entire evening based on a prior success record (with willing or unwilling partners) or that his marketing sequence to date sex has failed miserably. Unlike the rest of the evening, where he asked and waited for her response, we watch as Mr. Hyde emerges, skips consenual protocol, and takes. We are left, as is Susan — who is still reeling from the jarring dissolution of a fairy tale date suffocated under post-eruption ash — with only reflection.
As many dates go, there is no tidy resolution here with a happy ending. And, reflection’s questions — and — answers can only strengthen or defeat Susan.
Sexual assault and date rape can begin as early as Dating 101, and then without warning, erupt into a mafioso protection racket, complete with a pay-up-now-or-else penis deployment, along with assumptions of hush-hush post-sexual contact. In the crass thinking of many, when Susan crossed the threshold to Mr. Date’s apartment, was the granting consent for assault under the guise of “this is what you wanted” idiocy.
Is Susan showing us her date’s lack of empathetic self-worth and rehearsed objectification of women (and probably himself)? Is it possible that Mr. Hyde feels he can skip normal protocol because his deviancy has become the only norm that matters to him?
In the past four years, Susan’s dates have been perfunctory at best. They begged the question whether her earlier years of dating — bearing the stamp of success that landed her two highly touted awards of marriage — were now a thing of the past. But with this latest offering, Susan is back in the saddle, displaying the longing, desire, and hope seen in her earlier work, with the new confidence a seasoned director sometimes enjoys.
Stars Susan, Mr. Blind Date/Mr. Date/Mr. Hyde
Genre Dating Drama, History