Completed as a student project, writer/director Rhonda Parker's "no budget" indie Friends Don't Let Friends Date Friends is almost precisely the type of film you'd expect from a novice filmmaker.
If you think that's an insult, you're wrong.
Centering around a young woman, Della (Amelia Favata), who avoids emotional entanglements while dealing with a turbulent home life and a park program job, Friends Don't Let Friends Date Friends is a solid indie effort, an advertised no-budget project where the lack of a budget shows but the work of the film's ensemble cast is involving enough that if you're a skilled moviegoer it shouldn't bother you all that much that the film's sound is uneven, occasionally wildly so, and a good amount of the shot selection seems as much guided by the film's budget limitations as it is to further the story.
The film picked up the prize for Best Student Film at the Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival and had a handful of other nominations at the same festival including a couple for Parker herself as director and writer of the project. Friends Don't Let Friends Date Friends is also available for viewing now on Amazon Video.
In the film, Della is a sarcastic but level-headed young woman who's best friends with Kyle (Adam S. Dixson). The two embrace their long-term "no conflict" friendship as neither one really aspires to being anything but friends. Sparks fly when Della introduces Gwen (Erin Stamp) to Kyle, while Della meets an unusual comedian, Jeff (Eric Witkowski).
It probably won't surprise you that nothing quite goes as expected and boundaries are pushed, lines acrossed, friendships are tested and what used to be simple is now a lot more complicated.
Friends Don't Let Friends Date Friends is a quiet little comedy, less "laugh out loud" and more observational in its humor. Parker's script works well within the confines of a limited budget as the story focuses squarely on the dialogue and the relationships between the characters rather than any need for expensive sets, gimmicky shots or fancy production values. While the occasional fade-to-black shot is distracting and the lingering shot, which can be incredibly effective when used discreetly, is overly utilized here.
But then, there are the other moments in Friends Don't Let Friends Date Friends that make it all worthwhile. For example, it's rather refreshing to see Parker cast the film so incredibly well with genuine romantic threads with genuine people. One of the great things about the ultra-indie scene is that you can't edit your way out of bad filmmaking and you can't disguise bad acting. Parker's cast this film quite well, with both Favata and Stamp, in particular, having a rather authentic chemistry and Adam S. Dixson's Kyle also being impressive. Overall, the entire ensemble cast performs solidly.
Friends Don't Let Friends Date Friends is a film that fans of low-budget indies will appreciate, a film that did a slow tour through the fest scene and is now put out there for the world via Amazon's streaming options. While viewers who stick to the multiplexes and wide releases will likely not embrace its indie charm, low-budget filmmakers and those who get the struggles that go along with creating quality cinema with the change in your pocket will likely smile, take notes and look forward to seeing Ms. Parker's next effort.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic