Rachel From New York

By Jeanne Jo | Comedy
A woman goes on a date with a guy 'outside her type'. But she's not racist...

Launched by “Bridesmaids” director Paul Feig, Powderkeg: Fuse is a talent incubator program that highlights emerging female film directors. Omeleto is proud to share its diverse slate of shorts for this year — as part of its inaugural Fuse Directing Program — which is inspired by the vibrant communities of Los Angeles and united by a comedic sensibility that can range from bawdy to caustic to offbeat, but is always emotionally grounded.

Rachel lives in Los Angeles, and is a recent transplant from the East Coast, starting anew as she deals with a difficult breakup. Despite her new California lifestyle of juicing and jogging, she clearly hasn’t gotten over her ex and unable to embrace the laidback nature of her new home.

After a fraught conversation, she decides to go on a date with a guy “outside her type.” But the date — a Black man who’s an entrepreneur — goes off the rails, revealing just how out of place Rachel really is.

Writer-director Jeanne Jo, along with co-writer Keenan Coogler, has crafted a clever, gloriously awkward comedy short that combines wit and social observation, examining how tricky social issues can seep into everyday personal interaction — and just how crazy first dates can be.

It’s an acidic take on the typical romantic comedy, built on a foundation of intelligent writing with an eye and ear for self-delusion. Essentially a set-up leading into a classic two-hander, the revelation of story and character happens primarily through dialogue, which here is sharp and smart, but most importantly true to character.

Taking place in Los Angeles, the film establishes anxious, edgy Rachel in the sunlit environs and lush greenery of Los Angeles. She’s a fish out of water, and she’s about to realize just how out of her element she really is, especially when she meets her date, a relaxed, affably confident Black man.

Both main actors — Scout Durwood as Rachel and Walter Fauntleroy as her date — have a nice back-and-forth that reveals potential chemistry between the pair. The masterful dialogue handles the subject of race in a way that feels both funny and true, as Rachel goes out of her way to avoid it, and avoid seeming racist.

Yet Rachel keeps stepping into tricky waters with various gaffes, many of which threaten to derail the date. But in the ironies of all ironies, a telling anecdote reveals just how neurotic Rachel is — and proves crazy is crazy, no matter what your identity.

“Rachel From New York” feels very much like a snapshot of one woman’s dating life, overlaid with a filter that punches up the brights with heightened dialogue but throws her flaws and contradiction into a high-contrast spotlight. Entertaining, light and spiky all at once, it ends with just a sliver of hope for Rachel — and a knowing laugh for the audience, who will have no illusions about Rachel’s future misadventures.

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