WE LIVE IN a golden age of narcissism, fueled by social media and the belief that everything we think, utter, eat, create or gaze upon should be of interest to others. In this sense, Netflix’s reality TV snack Longest Third Date is perfect for these times. It’s a chronicle of a compulsive self-chronicler who journeyed to Costa Rica in March 2020 on, yes, a third date, with a woman he liked but barely knew. And there they remained, quarantined in paradise by Covid for what turned out to be months.
At least there was no shortage of footage when it came time to make the movie. Matt Robertson, who goes by “Movie Matt,” is a man for whom nothing has happened unless he has filmed and commented on it. A bearded bro with a man bun, he decides to go big on his third date with Khani Le, a free-spirited lass who has a habit of ending declarative sentences with a question mark? They spend a fun few days, drinking and frolicking in the crisp, teal water, and get ready to return stateside. But when the time comes, all flights are canceled. And canceled. And canceled. When Thomas Wolfe wrote You Can’t Go Home Again this wasn’t what he had in mind. Blessed with the gumption of youth, only slightly daunted, they spend the next several weeks bopping around the country, ziplining, making friends with a local iguana, and figuring out what it might mean to live as a couple.
It’s a cute idea that has the makings of an Adam Sandler romcom: Thrust together in a romantic tourist destination, a boy and a girl get to know each other on the run, and maybe, just maybe, fall in love. One could generously describe Longest Third Date as a social experiment. One could also assess it as an epic navel gaze, the adventures of two people whose circumstances are a lot more interesting than their personalities. This could, of course, describe a good chunk of the reality TV era: ordinary people whose quirks are curated into entertainment. The difference here is that one of the participants is doing the curating, because that’s what he does on even normal days. The results, however, aren’t terribly entertaining.
And so, we’re left with the passable fun of questions that yield minor suspense. Will Matt and Khani have sex? (Spoiler alert: yes, they will, and the subject is actually handled with frankness and taste). Then, the bigger one, which we won’t spoil: Will they stay together once they finally escape? Of course we want them to, and we figure the doc, which clocks in at a merciful 75 minutes, won’t end on a major downer. Upbeat interviews filmed after the fact by someone not named Matt, of the principals and their friends, suggest that tragedy does not await.
To its credit, Longest Third Date also delves a little into Khani’s ambivalent response to having her every moment captured for posterity, and the subsequent media attention that begins before they even head home. She likes the guy well enough. She’s a trooper. But geez, could you turn the camera off for a nanosecond?
It’s hard to fault the guy too much. He’s a young man with video cameras at his disposal, and he’s been taught by the culture of his generation that he’s supposed to turn said cameras on himself. It appears that “vlogger” is now an official word, a sad day for the language but an accurate reflection of the times. The tale of Matt and Khani is quite charming. With any luck they’ll have a great story to tell — and show — their grandchildren someday. But that doesn’t mean it makes for good television.