Shadenfreude is a German word that means “to derive pleasure from the misfortunes of others”. It’s the reason why gossip sites are so popular and why going to the movies is so much fun.
I wish I knew the German word for “deriving pleasure from the misfortune of others and the satisfaction you feel after they’ve overcome them and grown as people”, because I would use it to describe why Date Night is such a propulsive, interesting movie.
I’m just messing with you. I only wanted to use this new German word I just learned.
Steve Carrell and Tina Fey play a married couple who decide on a “date night” to try and spice things up. They get a lot more then they bargained for by taking someone else’s table at a fancy restaurant where you need to make reservations at least a month in advance. Admittedly, it was probably a mistake on their part to just show up cold and hope to get a table. So they wait at the bar, thinking about what to do next. There’s a long, awkward moment where Steve’s character just stands there like an autistic person– it’s not a stretch for him–and debates whether or not he should just take a no-show’s 2-person table. Since the film is called “Date Night” and most of us saw trailers for the movie, the audience is already familiar with where the premise is going. We know what Steve is going to do next. Which is what makes that moment of indecision even more awkward and protracted than it should have been.
So they’re finally seated. Things are going great. The night is off to a wonderful start. We think this is the only real hiccup in their marriage: their inability to go out into the town, let loose on the streets of Manhattan for a couple hours and just forget the kids. But then, these two creeps come up to them in one of the best sequences of the movie. They think they’re being removed from the restaurant because they stole someone else’s table. They’re led out into the alleyway, and in one of the worst sequences of the movie (it can change that fast) they realize these goons want some kind of flash drive to give back to their mob boss. If this wasn’t a broad romantic comedy, that alleyway scene would have probably taken a much darker, more disturbing turn. But since it is, they lead these goons on a cat and mouse chase through Manhattan. Thankfully, a lot of it is really funny. Carrell and Fey make a great comedic team and this is the type of movie that’s really suited for them.
Actually, that’s not entirely true. There are a lot of rough spots here. I’m thinking about really dramatic moments, where the laughs stop and a serious point is supposed to be made. Carrell puts on his serious business, autistic face, looks Fey into her eyes and says something along the lines of, you know what, just once I’d like it if you had some faith in me to get things done. And she looks at him and says well I’m busting my ass around the house and you never help me out. So they have deeper domestic issues that we would have never known about–that they would never have known about–unless these two mob goons showed up and ruined their night.
I can see what a marriage counselor might think of that. “A dull marriage can impose lots of problems. You need to get out of your comfort zone. Look I know this really big mob guy. Give him a call, tell him you have his flash drive. He’ll set you two straight.”
One of those 80’s gems I haven’t seen in a long time is Adventures in Babysitting, which is what Date Night reminded me of. I loved it as a kid. I think my nostalgia for it helped fuel my enjoyment of this one. So if you liked Babysitting, give this one a try. If you didn’t, you must not be a fan of deriving pleasure from the misfortune of others.