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Video Interview: Francesca Reale – Dating and New York

Francesca Reale is soon to be a household name. You may remember her gruesome fate in Stranger Things 3, or her more straight-laced roles in Yes, God, Yes and Haters Back Off. Now, in Dating and New York—a Tribeca 2021 premiere and her first starring role—Reale is finally given full license to inhabit her character … and does so with genre-bending authenticity. What does that even mean? Hear me out.

Written and directed by first-timer Jonah Feingold (also interviewed), Dating and New York unfolds like an inverted Disney fairy tale. Think When Harry Met Sally meets Shrek—with sweeping strings and a coy, unreliable narrator. While ostensibly a lampoon of modern dating politics in the city of musical beds, the true emotional core of Dating and New York lies in evolving gender politics. Historically, rom-coms center around patriarchal male clichés: an obvious reflection of the culture-at-large. Even the best-intentioned rom-coms, including “chick flicks” with female leads (with a few legendary exceptions, Clueless among them), fall for these tropes. However: in part because of #MeToo, we’re beginning to see that formula subverted. Dating and New York is a prime example, both because it uses subversive humor to play with the traditional format, and because its lead characters choose reality over clichés.

No longer is the restless man-child glorified, and the willfully independent female vilified. Leads Francesca Reale and Jaboukie Young-White (playing Wendy and Milo, respectively) feel simultaneously classic and fresh. Reale is the film’s anchor. Straightforward to a fault, she actually offers Milo a friends-with-benefits contract on their first date. Her blend of off-the-cuff humor and emotional sobriety gives the film tonal balance. Standout moments include when she has to act as her date’s therapist (literally) because he lied about his height, and when she runs into a former bf with a shockingly familiar new fiancé.

In my interview with the actress, Reale reveals how some of her own real-life dates helped shape her performance. Life imitates art. Dating and New York turned out to be therapeutic, and avoids much of what so many rom-coms of the past have done wrong.

Dylan Kai Dempsey is a New York-based writer/filmmaker. His reviews have been published in Vanity Fair, Variety, No Film School, and He’s also developing a graphic novel as well as his own award-winning pilot script, #Likes4Lucas. He began as a development intern at Bonafide Productions in L.A. and Rainmark Productions in London.

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