This is a classic Aussie rom-com date-stamp from 1996, and the kind of romantic comedy you just don’t see anymore. There have been several Hollywood flicks that have used a similar premise (Big, Vice Versa, Freaky Friday, 18 Again!), but nothing as “perverse” as Dating the Enemy.
Guy Pearce is Brett, a fastidious and arrogant pop music television show presenter. Claudia Karvan is Tash, a messy and emotional science journalist. The two actors, still on an upward climb in their respective careers, are terrific as their respective characters, but the real comedy is sparked when through divine cosmic intervention the chalk and cheese Sydney colleagues wake to find their minds inhabiting the other’s body.
It makes for a hilarious time, and it gets both emotionally and physically sticky, but not before cold hard truths emerge and soft warm compromises are reached. It’s definitely a feel-good movie, and despite the inherently corny trappings of the rom-com genre, Dating the Enemy rises above its own limitations because of its swift pacing, a refusal to play dumb (yet still indulge in a clutch of sillyisms), its honest portrayals of the insecurities and weaknesses of each sex, and, above all, the calibre of the performances from its leads.
Essentially Dating the Enemy is a very well made television movie. There’s nothing especially cinematic about its visual style, it has a small cast, and it plays things pretty safely, apart from the outlandish notion of having sex with your own body whilst inside someone else’s (that’s the part mainstream Hollywood would’ve baulked at!) But there are so many funny scenes and moments that Dating the Enemy remains fresh and unfettered, like the very best romantic comedies. It’s the heart and soul of the story that counts, and Brett and Tash are a classic example of the age-old proven theory of opposites attract.
Director Megan Simpson Huberman wrote the snappy, insightful screenplay, but hasn’t made a feature since, which is a shame since she effortlessly captures fantastic nuances of femininity and masculinity, and along with the superbly entertaining central performances from Pearce and Karvan, also elicits great support from Lisa Hensley, Pippi Grandison, and Matt Day.
Forget the slap’n’tickle absurdity of 50 Shades of Grey, Dating the Enemy is an incisive, unpretentious comedy of manners, about the wonderfully funny idiosyncrasies of being male and female, making it broadly accessible, and the perfect popcorn on the sofa date flick.
Dating the Enemy film review by Bryn Tilly of www.cultprojections.com