#462) The Lunch Date (1989)

#462) The Lunch Date (1989)

OR “I’ll Have What She’s Having”

Directed & Written by Adam Davidson

Class of 2013

The Plot: An upper-class Woman (Scotty Bloch) misses her train while rushing through Grand Central Station. Her plans dashed and her wallet missing, the Woman orders a salad from a nearby food stand with change from her purse. When she returns to her table after retrieving utensils, she finds a presumably homeless African-American Man (Clebert Ford) eating her salad. What could escalate into a heated argument fueled by bigotry becomes a moment of connection in which the Woman sees through her own bias and perception….or maybe not.

Why It Matters: The NFR gives some background, and calls the film “a simple, yet effective parable on the vicissitudes and pervasiveness of perception, race and stereotypes.” Full disclosure: I had to look up “vicissitudes”; it’s an unwelcome change of circumstances.

But Does It Really?: I can give “The Lunch Date” a pass on my “Everybody Gets One” mandate for its director Adam Davidson. The film overall is still effective, and delves a bit deeper than your typical student film. The NFR is always on the lookout for student films to put on this list, and “The Lunch Date” is a natural choice.

Everybody Gets One: Son of theater director Gordon and entertainment publicist Judi, Adam Davidson knew he wanted to be a filmmaker. He opted to attend Columbia over NYU because of Columbia’s emphasis on storytelling over technique. “The Lunch Date” was a film that Davidson considered a “practice run” while he was still contemplating what his thesis film would be. He covered most of the film’s $7000 budget by selling his motorcycle and trading “short ends” of film for a complete reel.

Wow, That’s Dated: The only giveaway is Grand Central Station’s pre-digital departure board. The clacking of the individual numbers is so satisfying, though.

Seriously, Oscars?: “The Lunch Date” played the festival circuit, and eventually the Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Palme d’Or for short films (The only American short in contention). The same week of the Cannes accolades, the film won a Student Academy Award, making it eligible for Oscar consideration. Nine months later, “The Lunch Date” won the Academy Award for Best Live-Action Short Film. All of this while Davidson was still a student at Columbia!

Other notes 

  • That story again, “The Lunch Date” was a film Davidson tossed off while he was considering his thesis project. And now he’s an Oscar winner with a film on the NFR. May we all be so blessed.
  • Both Scotty Bloch and Clebert Ford were New York character actors and stage veterans by the time “The Lunch Date” came about. And as with any true New York actor, they both have respectable “Law & Order” numbers: Ford with 2, Bloch with 4 (3 regular, 1 “SVU”). Davidson would go on to direct an episode himself in 1998.
  • A noteworthy attention to detail: the Man’s beanie still has a price tag on it.
  • The short sequence of our two characters eating a salad is the film in a nutshell: Simply executed, but conveying deeper layers underneath. Kudos to Davidson, as well as the subtle acting chops of Bloch and Ford.
  • I enjoyed the staging of the moment where the Woman cannot find her bag. It has a nice Hitchcockian quality to it.
  • The thing I most appreciate about “The Lunch Date” is that it’s left up to you to determine if this woman was actually changed by this experience. My answer is no, but that’s also because of the thoroughly depressing, racially charged times we’re currently living in.

Legacy 

  • Although Adam Davidson has only one feature-length film to his credit (2000’s “Way Past Cool”), he has been an in-demand TV director for the past 25 years. Highlights include episodes of “Six Feet Under”, “Grey’s Anatomy”, “Community”, and “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist”, which I keep meaning to watch. Is it any good?

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