Since almost everyone is familiar with the joy, terror and anxiety that make up the ritual of dating, it would seem that Cross My Heart has a guaranteed audience. This is a movie that takes us through the fundamentals of a single, epic date, with plenty of all-too familiar problems that most people will recognize.
As the film begins, our two principals are preparing for their night out. David (Martin Short) has just been fired that day, so he considers calling the whole thing off. But his pal (Paul Reiser) offers the use of a car and a swinging bachelor pad. On the other side of town, Cathy (Annette O’Toole) worries that, after two dates, she still hasn’t told David about her daughter; she doesn’t want to scare him off.
When they meet that night, they both keep their secrets. Mistake. One little lie leads to another, and by the end of the evening they’re completely misrepresenting themselves.
Other disasters dog this date. After handing the borrowed car over to a valet parker at a fancy restaurant, David is distressed to learn that the restaurant does not have valet parking.
The car is gone, but at least the bachelor pad is still there. Sex is on the agenda; and eventually accomplished, but not until Cathy assuages her nervousness by giving David a magazine sex quiz. She asks, “Are you a giver or a taker?” He answers, “A giver – you might say I’m a sexual Santa Claus.”
The script by Armyan Bernstein and Gail Parent is full of funny date situations. They have clearly survived a few dates themselves. Bernstein, as director, does not push things. If anything, the movie is too lazy in getting to its points. But Bernstein has recognized the movie’s most important aspect: That the casting of the two daters is crucial to the film’s success.
Even though they have their faults, especially the man, both characters must remain sympathetic. Martin Short, glorious on SCTV and Saturday Night Live, keeps his man on track, even though the character does some things that aren’t terribly nice. Short’s vocal timing is perfect, and his physical skills are sharp. He even gets to do his impression of Montgomery Clift.
But if this movie is memorable for anything, it’s for giving the largest screen role yet to Annette O’Toole. This lovely actress has been appearing in peripheral roles in such things as Cat People and Superman III. She’s so appealing here that it’s a mystery why she’s so underused in moviedom. Maybe she’s always been a little too well-scrubbed. This performance, by turns funny, worried and flirtatious, should earn her way back into the Hollywood fold.
First published in The Herald, November 1987
It would seem that Cross My Heart did not have a guaranteed audience. The movie wasn’t a financial success, and O’Toole continued on with a career that progressed steadily without breaking through into top-tier status. Which is probably fine with her. She married Michael McKean and they co-wrote the Oscar-nominated song “A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow” from A Mighty Wind. This was the final film directed by Armyan Bernstein, who went on to be a prolific producer.