Beth and Rob are reaching the end of a fantastic dinner date at a fine restaurant, where they’ve spent a promising evening over a delicious meal. They rave about the steak, enjoy the wine, and all looks good for a future romantic encounter.
But then the check comes. From there, a promising new romance begins to derail, and Beth sees a side of Rob that she doesn’t like. But as it turns out, there’s more to Rob than Beth realizes.
Directed by Ricky Lloyd George and written by Narmar Hanna — who also stars in the short — this sharply engaging comedy short uses a common flashpoint of tension in modern dating as a jumping-off point. The narrative starts in romantic comedy territory, with a potential new couple canoodling over a decadent, expensive meal at a fancy restaurant. There’s talk of filet mignon, wine, a suggestion of spending more time together later: all the hallmarks of a suggested date, set up with efficient economy with just the right amount of detail in the dialogue and moved along with well-timed pacing and dynamic camera movement.
This tete-a-tete is shot with warm, burnished lighting and colors, emphasizing an intimate, warm and elegantly suggestive atmosphere. In short, it’s a perfect beginning to a light, bubbling romantic movie.
Everything is perfect, and Beth even excitedly messages a friend that the date is going great. But then the check comes, the sharp, funny dialogue and performances come to the fore as the date devolves into a debacle. Rob, as it turns out, nickels and dimes every charge on the bill, questioning the embarrassed waiter about the gratuity added and the extra sauce charge, in an increasingly combative manner.
Actors Jared Ward and Narmar Hanna play the growing tension straight, having fun playing off Rob’s increasing jerky behavior. Like Beth, we as viewers squirm through our seats as Rob gets more confrontation, and we just want to call it a night and put the awkwardness behind us. But, as it turns out, someone else is banking on that fact as well.
“The Diner’s Club” ends with a bigger reveal, one that puts an ironic bow on the much-debated situation of who pays for what on a date (and pokes some fun at a now-obscure credit card.) It finds its comedy, not in punchlines and gags, but the sharp observation of societal mores. These mores hinge on the unwritten rules of life, and how they often try to limit exposure to cringe-worthy social discomfort. This avoidance of embarrassment is leveraged against Beth, but when the ruse is up, we end on just a touch of a cliffhanger — though we know her date will soon be hanging off the edge of it.