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It could be argued that the story formula for romantic comedies are timeless movie plots. Boy meets girl, but they don't like each other, both have to face a hurdle, then eventually fall in love. When there are variations of that formula, the results can be a somewhat mixed bag of goods. First-time feature director, Jonah Feingold, plays with that structure throughout his film "Dating & New York" in exciting ways. We follow Milo (Jaboukie Young-White) and Wendy (Francesca Reale), who meet on a popular dating app called "Meet Cute." After a fun one-night stand, they both agree to keep things as a mutual friendship, but could it lead to something more?

Stories like this are absolutely the sorts of things we've seen one-hundred times over. The screenplay also by Feingold knows this and has the characters acknowledge it. In the wrong hands, that "knowingness" could be nothing more than a parody. It's thanks to the cast that Feingold has assembled that it plays like a warm hug. That's in no small part, thanks to the charismatic and charming leads Jaboukie Young-White and Francesca Reale. Both of their performances are definitely playing to the types you'd expect. Their banter is so rapid-fire and funny, especially amongst their interactions with the supporting cast.

This is a more whimsical love letter to New York. The screenplay gives even the supporting characters moments to shine. Like in any of these rom-com style stories, you have to have the friends of the central protagonists. Brian Muller and Catherine Cohen, who are a couple in real life, play the respective friends of both Milo and Wendy. As we watch them navigate feelings for each other as well as their friends, the dialogue soars. In these performances, some are going to make the argument that they're all caricatures. What makes things shine is the razor-sharp screenplay by Feingold, which openly acknowledges the rules of the genre. It's the proper jolt the genre needed to deliver something ridiculously fun until it stops.

What keeps the film from being a modern spin on the genre is the third act. Like many of these stories, there have to be certain obstacles that prevent these characters' "happy endings." Even at 90 minutes long, you could see where a good 10-15 minutes could be trimmed. As we're getting closer to the resolution, specific story beats have to be delivered. It's a slight quibble but isn't a detriment, thanks to this incredibly likable and immensely engaging cast. Being a love letter to the genre arguably saves the film because it's so incredibly endearing. The dialogue is so snappy and delivered in a way that's fluent and fast-paced in a way that never feels contrived. You can guess where it's going, but the story works best as a journey with a simple destination.

Yes, when there are "winks to the camera," they don't always work to the story's advantage. They're the sort of narrative cliches I won't spoil here, but if you've seen any rom-com, you'll know what happens. However, Reale and White's charisma helps those cliches to pivot into something with humor and heart. This tonal balance isn't easy to accomplish, but the charm on display helps to equate to more good than bad.

"Dating & New York" is an honest and trustworthy homage to the sorts of films that aren't made anymore. You have a group of likable and charismatic characters dealing with the situation of romance. White and Reale are so likable and charming as the leads that you can forgive the narrative pitfalls they find themselves in. The same could be said for Cohen and Muller, who make the most of roles that would otherwise be thankless in lesser actors' hands. When the script is this actively self-aware, the pitfalls in the narrative are pretty easy to look over. Being as briskly timed as it is, my only regret is that I didn't get to spend more time with these characters.

Rating: 7.5/10

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