Prom Dates (2024)

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Prom Dates (2024)

The movie is called “Prom Dates,” and it’s a raunchy, R-rated but warmhearted teen comedy about two best-bud girls getting into trouble in the days leading up to their high school prom. It’s an old mode think “Superbad” for its mid-aughts incarnation that got a social media-era upgrade with “Booksmart.” It was written by D.J. Mausner and directed by Kim O. Nguyen, both of whom have primarily worked in TV sitcoms, and it feels like a very long pilot for a Netflix show that would go to series, build a modest but loyal following, then get canceled after two seasons so the streamer doesn’t have to give everyone a raise for going to three. There’s also just loads of talent in it.

Antonia Gentry plays Jess, Julia Lester plays Hannah. When they were 13, they hid under a table at a prom they’d snuck into and made a promise: Hannah’s date would be the love of her life, Jess would be the most popular girl at school and get named prom queen. Five years later senior prom is coming up and everything is chaos. Jess wants to solidify her chances at winning the crown by going with Luca (Jordan Buhat), who is handsome and shallow, but he cheats on her the night before prom and she dumps him. (After his secret other hookup storms out on him, he says to himself with great irritation: “Siri pause ‘Sexy Time Playlist.’”)

Hannah does not have a date lined up when she gets invited, through song in the middle of a school assembly, by Greg (Kenny Ridwan), who turns out to be her obsessive Number One fan “Fargo”-style Mike Yanagita vibes are strong here so she says yes but her heart is not in it because Greg is annoying and has no sense of boundaries, also because Hannah is a lesbian and hasn’t come out to anyone yet, not even Jess.

There is a long sequence of the movie that takes place at a college mixer where copious amounts of alcohol and drugs are consumed, and much sex is attempted (though not much actually had). The story folds over on itself more than once; would it surprise you to learn that ultimately the girls realize all they needed was each other? Well, that plus some wish fulfillment that feels well-deserved by the time it finally arrives.

Prom Dates” does sound and move like post-millennium, industry-standard cliches of scripted comedy cathartic or transformative moments cruelly cut short when someone’s body fluids unexpectedly erupt (in this case: puke, blood) as well as scenes where people have deadpan conversations with individuals at parties who don’t realize how truly, deeply weird they are quite a rogue’s gallery here, including an aspiring serial killer and a young woman named Heather who discovered liquid courage and renamed herself Vodka Heather.

Most of the conversation seems like it would be generated in a Hollywood sitcom writers’ room: proclamatory and workshoppy, delivered in Tweet-sized bursts. This is an industry-wide problem; “Prom Dates” is not unique in this regard. But the script takes so many shots at such velocity that a high percentage lands anyway, and much of it is quotable, or meme-able especially the stuff given to Hannah (a gorgeously shaded performance by Gentry), an emotionally bruised, prematurely cynical, rightly angry person who seems as if she might grow up to write a film like this one. “Your music taste is all women who sound like sad ghosts anyway,” she chides her devoted brother Jacob (JT Neal). When she texts every lesbian and possible lesbian she’s ever met in hopes of getting a prom date, one of them replies, “Sorry! I’m not gay, I’m just really into softball,” and Heather fumes, “That’s a lie! She hit 42 home runs this year!”

Even when the movie stuffs them into pre-fab teen movie character slots come on look at these kids. They’re appealing. And it’s fun to see so many young actors being encouraged to let their freak flags fly at the same time that they’re being asked to do a lot of old-fashioned character-driven scene work. Gentry and Lester have such genuine chemistry (especially when the characters are fighting) that I wouldn’t mind seeing more films built around them; Ridwan goes furthest out on his own limb as Greg, whom he invests with a mix of nerdy innocence and fiery individuality reminiscent of young Nicolas Cage in early roles like “Valley Girl” and “Peggy Sue Got Married.” There’s a scene between Hannah and Greg near the end that’s unexpectedly piercing in its honesty; might be interesting to check back on “Prom Dates” in about ten years, make a list of all the significant actors who first got noticed in it.

Also On Putlocker.

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