‘Fresh’ Is A Witty, Breezy, Slightly Gory Comedy Horror About The Perils Of Dating

Mimi Cave makes her feature directorial debut this week with Fresh, a comedic-horror movie with a killer hook, that’s goofy and fun but just clever enough to make it work.

Fresh, premiering at Sundance this week in advance of a Hulu release in March, stars Daisy Edgar-Jones as Noah*, a 20-something Portlander slogging through the worst of app-based dating. We meet Noah just before her first date with Chad, who texts her beforehand to remind her bring money because the restaurant is cash-only, then proceeds to spill Chinese food all over his favorite scarf. Then one day, Noah meets Steve (Sebastian Stan) in the grocery store, and he seems perfect. Maybe too perfect.

The reveal of Steve’s big secret takes up the bulk of the movie, and you could probably piece it together if you wanted to, but I wouldn’t feel right spoiling it here. Fresh, written by Lauren Kahn, formerly an assistant to Adam McKay, isn’t the first movie ever to use elements of the fantastic to depict the horrors of dating. Yet it’s rare for the way it never overplays the metaphor, or aims for something pat or reductive. Fresh always feels like it’s telling a story, never like it’s delivering a message. It’s also a sublime combination of exuberant schlock and subtle detail, a broad, splattery romp that still rewards the viewer paying close attention.

Edgar-Jones, previously best known as one of the bookish sex teens in Normal People, is solid as the relatable heroine, even if I desperately wanted to push her bangs out of her eyes the entire movie. Do bad bangs make her more relatable? Oh well, at least she isn’t falling down. Sebastian Stan ends up being a fitting match, joining the pantheon of actors who look like they’ve never run before while playing a handsome doctor with the haircut of a 10-year-old boy. But hey, it is set in the Pacific Northwest, after all. The adults there all dress like smart toddlers.

Fresh premiered in Sundance’s Midnight category, dedicated to all things goofy, gory, horrific, and fantastical, but Fresh is the rare midnight movie that seems above all balanced. It’s silly without being stupid, smart without being dull, and broad without being corny. It’s a hell of a feature debut for Mimi Cave and a solid sophomore effort for Lauryn Kahn.

‘Fresh’ is currently playing at the Sundance Film Festival. It’s set for release via Hulu on March 4th. Vince Mancini is on Twitter. You can access his archive of reviews here.

*IMDB lists this character as “Noa,” but I imagined it as “Noah” for an entire film and I prefer my own mental image to this oddly-spelled, post-facto imposition.