Tag Archives: Antonia Gentry

Desperate and Dateless

Prom Dates

by Hope Madden

Back in 2019, Olivia Wilde debuted Booksmart, a “smart, funny, raunchy yet quite loving tale of two besties.” It was maybe the best high school buddy comedy since Superbad, and held onto that coveted top spot until last year’s Bottoms.

Prom Dates, Kim O. Nguyen’s first feature after years of directing comedy for TV, treads similar hallowed halls.

Jess (Antonia Gentry) and Hannah (Julia Lester) have been BFFs their whole lives. Back in middle school they swore a blood oath that their senior prom would be the best night of their lives.

What? A blood oath. With actual blood. About prom. Who’s buying this?

Fast forward a few years. It’s the night before senior prom, and Hannah, who can bear no longer to pretend she’s heterosexual, breaks up with her clingy boyfriend (Kenny Ridwan) just as Jess finds her douchebro boyfriend (Jordan Buhat) cheating.

What?! They’re both dateless for prom! Which is [checks notes] how most kids go to prom anymore.

Nguyen’s episodic background shows, and writer D.J. Mausner’s years writing sketch comedy amplifies the film’s lack of cohesion. They stitch together one borrowed situation after another as the girls wildly seek a new date for the dance. Each attempt is meant to bring with it edgy hilarity—Shots! A stripper! Vomit! A cannibal (I’m sorry?)! Oh, the hijinks.

Ensemble performers are saddled with one-note caricatures (Ridwan is especially abused in his thankless role). But the reason Prom Dates doesn’t land the same way the others did is that the bond between Jess and Hannah never feels authentic or lived-in.

Lester elevates what she can with an instinct for earnest comedy, but every mistake Hannah makes has such a tidy resolution, you can’t help but feel the filmmakers’ sketch/TV influences.

As much as I wanted to like this movie, it’s simply a watered down Booksmart with no real stakes.