After making the rounds of the film festival circuit as an official selection at the Newport Beach Film Festival, the opening night film at Tahoe/Reno International Film Festival and earning an award from Ft. Lauderdale’s International Film Festival, writer/director Stefan Marc’s Dating Games People Play has now made its move to DVD.
With all of the honors and festival inclusions, one would expect Marc’s romantic comedy on the ups and downs of dating to offer new insight into the treacherous world of singledom but instead, it coasts along the road that most films in its genre follow as we meet Nick Jenkins (Austin Peck) who, after getting cold feet from marrying his fiancé, is told to stay single by his parents and enjoy bachelorhood although he finds his single’s life jeopardized when he meets the beautiful Mona Evans (Leslie Bega).
Instead of offering anything new to the overcrowded indie genre, Marc’s film succeeds simply because it stays mostly relatable with characters who try to navigate the dating scene and end up either having conversations or finding themselves in situations that feel entirely authentic to the typical dater.
The often painful, funny and only rarely successful life of a dater provides much fodder for the film as we see traditional setups such as men arguing over the best way to approach a gorgeous girl and decide that the key in is chatting up her less than attractive friend, men who either pull the “I forgot my wallet” line or in trying to divide up the bill take the process so literally that they stress how much they hate getting ripped off by women, men who stare at other women while on dates, and women who assume that when their date is nodding with interest while they speak is actually listening to them instead of their really remembering they have to get their car serviced.
And, as one of the last (but happy!) singles in groups of increasingly married friends, I enjoyed Marc’s decision to give the friends of couples their due as well as we try to fend off fix-ups, begin getting annoyed that whatever we tell one person in confidence will no doubt be shared with their mate as couples cannot keep secrets, and try to keep from judging relationships and decisions we feel may not be the best. As Nick’s best friend Jed Rollins, writer/director Stefan Marc turns in a funny performance that’s augmented by his involvement with Mona’s gorgeous friend Robin (Stephanie Braun) and while the overly naïve and painfully obvious acting of our lead Peck and some weak dialogue make his and Bega’s plotline less than interesting, Marc satisfies wandering attention spans with plenty of other distractions, misunderstandings and false alarms.
While it’s nothing new and Marc’s overreliance on raunchy humor wears out its welcome as soon as it’s introduced (including a predictable and torturous vomit scene), once viewers get past the amateurish opening, they will find this a partially passable timewaster best shared with friends tired of the bars and meet (or "meat") markets of single life.