‘Prom Dates’ Review: Antonia Gentry & Julia Lester Are Hilarious & Heartwarming In Hulu Rom-Com


It’s a common practice for movies and shows to cast adults as high schoolers or college students so that they can be sexualized for the demographic that, well, loves to fetishize people much, much younger than them. But things reached a tipping point when Sam Levinson released Euphoria and we saw the cast and crew going to some genuinely puke-inducing lengths to entertain its target audience. I don’t know about everyone else, but that definitely made me turn back the clocks and watch teen comedies where the characters were allowed to be awkward, messy, and yet hugely relatable. There’s Superbad, Project X, 21 & Over, 10 Things I Hate About You, and more. However, since they were a product of their time, they were largely heteronormative and centered around men. That’s why it’s refreshing to see something in the same vein as those films while being queer and female-centric. Yes, I’m talking about Prom Dates.

Kim O. Nguyen’s Prom Dates, which has been written by D.J. Mausner, tells the story of Jess and Hannah, who made a blood pact back in the day where they vowed to have the best prom night of all time when they were old enough to attend. But when it was time to actually go for their prom night, Jess was stuck with a self-centered douchebag called Luca, and Hannah was glued to Greg despite clearly being a queer woman. It seemed like they didn’t have a lot of options at their disposal, and they accepted the fact that prom had been ruined even before they reached the venue. However, the one-two punch of Luca’s betrayal and Greg’s decision to study at the same college that Hannah was going to prompted the best friends to break up with their respective boyfriends and take a trip through all the frat houses and parties to find a prom date. That journey not only allowed the girls to know themselves better, but it also tested the foundation of their relationship.

The first two acts of Prom Dates are really solid. The lack of chemistry between Luca and Jess as well as Hannah and Greg is palpable. You can sense the desperation that’s coursing through the veins of Jess and Hannah to exit this situation and search for greener pastures. Mausner beautifully focuses on how this generation is hyper-aware of their flaws and insecurities, yet their needs and desires are shaped by social media. The situations that the girls run into seem basic on the surface, as in they do drugs and they try to get intimate with potential prom partners. But then those incidents take the most bizarre turns, and you can’t help but laugh at the absurdity of it all. I mean, Jess runs into a bloody cannibal during her search for a prom partner, and that shows how unpredictable the screenplay is. Greg’s whole subplot is hilarious as well. The dialogue writing is really great, as it feels accessible to people of all ages instead of being filled with just Gen-Z lingo. That said, the third act isn’t really good. I think Mausner tries to go for something mellow and heartwarming, but that grinds the momentum of the film to a standstill, and not in a good way.

The direction, editing, and cinematography of Prom Dates are competent and efficient. I don’t think Kim O. Nguyen absolutely swings for the fences, but she makes sure that she doesn’t underutilize her resources. Just look at Greg’s banana-themed prom proposal. The wirework is visible, the choreography is dramatic, and the lighting is simple and practical. So, even though it seems implausible, you can totally see someone pulling it off. The stripper scene starts off like a regular dance sequence. However, the use of some dynamic lighting and double-exposure imagery elevates that whole scene and makes it one of the most memorable moments in a teen rom-com. I really loved the fact that Kim wasn’t afraid of getting gnarly. No, you won’t see limbs being hacked or bones being popped. However, there’s a good dose of puke and blood to keep things realistic and funny. The love and care that Kim shows while depicting Hannah’s queerness is worth appreciating. If she had managed to stick the landing in the third act, this would’ve been a perfect film.

The whole cast of Prom Dates is fantastic. Julia Lester is hands-down one of the funniest and most talented actors I have ever seen. She is always on point with her facial expressions, her body language, and her dialogue delivery. But when she needs to turn off the comedy button and unleash her emotional side, she is equally great. I think she and her character are going to inspire many queer kids to come out and embrace the complexities of the world they live in. Antonia Gentry is brilliant. She beautifully portrays her character’s hollow sense of confidence and how she is being defined by her insecurities and expectations. Her chemistry with Lester feels so organic that if anyone told me that they are best friends in real life, too, I would’ve believed them. Kenny Ridwan almost steals everyone’s thunder. It’s impressive how he never allows Greg to be pathetic while getting the most laughs out of me. JT Neal is great as the calmest character in the film. Zion Moreno is iconic as (Vodka) Heather. Patty Guggenheim knocks it out of the park in her short and sweet cameo.

Prom Dates is definitely worth a watch. It is really funny. I know people keep saying that comedy is dead because everyone has become “woke.” But this film is yet another example of the fact that the people who are complaining about the state of comedy are looking in the wrong places and making idols out of the unfunniest human beings in existence. As the flagbearer of the “anti-woke agenda” likes to say, there are cathedrals everywhere for those with eyes to see. I know that I have criticized the third act of the film a lot. Maybe not everyone will mind it as much as I did. And it’s possible that I’ll warm up to it in the near future. It’s a shame that these comedies aren’t being released theatrically. The aforementioned teenage comedies ended up being pop culture cornerstones because they weren’t buried by the algorithm. Well, I hope Prom Dates finds its audience and is promptly inducted into the hall of fame for great coming-of-age films.

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Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

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