It may seem ironic, but it’s quite true: no romantic comedy speaks more truthfully about love than 50 First Dates, directed by Peter Segal. It seems very ironic that a sweet, yet goofy story about a notorious playboy, Henry Roth (Adam Sandler), meeting and falling in love with Lucy Whitmore (Drew Barrymore), a woman with brain damage, would speak honestly about the amount of work that love entails, but it does. So what happens when a notorious playboy, afraid of commitment, meets a woman whose brain damage does not permit her to remember him the next day? He commits himself to finding ways to meet her and convince her to fall in love with him every single day for the rest his life.
Henry Roth first meets Lucy Whitmore in a café. It’s a well-crafted and magical moment. Blinded by a flash of light, Henry turns to find the source and sees an adorable woman playing with her knife at the table, which with every twist and turn, catches the suns rays. Henry makes his move, introduces himself, and they hit it off, conversing long into the start of the lunch hour. They set up a date to meet for breakfast at the café again the next morning, but Henry arrives to discover that Lucy has no memory of who he is or that they’ve ever met. That’s when Henry learns that about a year ago Lucy received a traumatic head injury in a car accident which permanently damaged her brain’s abilities to convert short-term memory into long term. In the words of Lucy’s dearest friend and café owner, Sue (Amy Hill), “It’s like her slate gets wiped clean every night.”
So every day Henry returns to the café and tries to reintroduce himself to Lucy. But, when Lucy’s father (Blake Carl) and brother (Sean Astin) find out about what Henry’s up to, regardless of Henry’s insistence that he’s “not after a one-night’s stand,” they forbid him to go back to the café because, as Lucy’s brother puts it, “anything with Lucy is a one-night’s stand, numb-nuts.” So what does Henry do? Every day he finds some new way to meet her while she’s driving her car from the café to her house. After a while, Lucy’s father and brother accept Henry’s presence in Lucy’s life because they see that he makes her day happier and is helping her to regain control of her life.
Conflict arises when Lucy begins to think that she is interfering too much with Henry’s life and that he had plans and a future before he met her, but now all he has time to do is make her fall in love with him every day. What Lucy fails to understand, but soon learns, is that lives and plans change when love comes into the picture, and that keeping love in the picture, for anyone, takes hard work and dedication. What 50 First Dates shows us, is that love, when nurtured, penetrates far deeper than the brain’s temporal lobe.
Drew Barrymore is absolutely adorable in this film and makes it a real joy to see. Barrymore and Sandler have a wonderful chemistry. What adds to the quality of this film is that this chemistry is set against the backdrop of Hawaii and charming scenes take place on pineapple fields lit by the golden light from the setting sun and on the beach at night with bon fires and ukuleles for extra props. But, it’s the final scene in this film, set to a rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Hawaiian star Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole, that turns it into a must-see heart-warmer. And for those of you who might be leery of Adam Sandler comedy, except for the obligatory vomiting walrus and slightly chemically unbalanced friend, the comedy in this film is very entertaining and raunchy free. All in all, if you haven’t seen it yet, 50 First Dates is a four-star must see.