Part of the Milwaukee Film Festival is to showcase local filmmakers and enable Milwaukee citizens to enjoy the hard work such filmmakers have put into their craft. Cream City Cinema is a festival program comprised of local films to serve just that purpose. Sunday, Oct. 6 was the final screening of Cream City Cinema documentary, "Date America." The screening attracted a large audience of between 800-900 people, who were thrilled to watch a film featuring the local area. "Date America" played at the Oriental Theatre from 8:30-10 p.m. followed by a Q&A with Director/Producer/Subject Bob Murray and Editor/Composer Jeff Martini.
"Date America" is a documentary about Bob Murray, a 34-year-old bachelor who finds himself wondering why he's still single and whether the cause could be the city. To determine if it's just Milwaukee women that aren't doing it for him, Murray embarks on an 18-day road trip from Milwaukee to Los Angeles to have dates with nine women he met online. This journey west includes stops in St. Louis, Kansas City, Dallas, New Mexico, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.
The decisions you make today will change your life.
The film had a strong start, showing media coverage of Bob's project, an interview with his parents, and a first date in Milwaukee with a woman named Cynthia. "Date America" elicited cheers and applause from the audience as they saw their local Lakefront Brewery and Bel Air Cantina restaurant. The film followed the typical MTV-style dating reality show, asking the date their occupation, whether they were nervous, etc. However, unlike an MTV show, "Date America" included less and less of the dates as the film went on. With nine dates in an 86-minute film, of course not everything can be included, but by the ninth date the audience saw her introduction, a sentence or two of conversation, and their final thoughts compared to elaborate coverage of the first few dates.
Bob Murray confessed in the Q&A that he is not a director but a banker and, unfortunately, it was no surprise that he wasn't a seasoned film veteran. While he made an interesting and likeable subject for the documentary, there was a serious lack of direction in the film. "Date America" starts as an exploration of online dating and whether women differ enough between the states in order for Murray to find someone suited to him. However, the film doesn't have an organized conclusion. There's no closing thoughts on online dating, and though the focus shifts towards Murray's problems instead of those of the women, there is little to no follow-up these problems. Furthermore, Murray answered a question after the film stating that he hasn't changed anything about how he dates or how he behaves on dates, and yet he insinuates that he experienced a change in the film. The audience misses what should be the most important part of the film and instead gets some brief observations and unexplained conclusion. This disconnect leaves the viewer wanting, and without the Q&A audience members would have been left asking themselves what they missed.
If Murray had done more to include content on what his dating issues were and how he's changed and grown over the experience, the film would have been much stronger. One of the crucial elements of a documentary following a personal journey is a revelation. And while one certainly can't plan for a revelation in someone's real life, there must be some kind of reflection on the experience as a whole in connection with the beginning intentions. The film began will some strong intentions, but ends only concerned with whether or not he found a match (even though it began as much more than that).
The Q&A provided insight needed to finish the film. Insights such as,
It doesn't matter where you are, you're still with yourself and the problem is probably with yourself.
You can't run away from yourself no matter what city you go to.
These helped bring the film together, and unfortunately they weren't included in the film at all. However, for Milwaukee natives and those who know people involved in "Date America", it's an entertaining reality show-style documentary that displays great pride in the city. The film has a very strong and promising start based on an intriguing topic that, under more focused direction, has great potential.