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Film / 50 First Dates

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50 First Dates is a 2004 American Romantic Comedy film. It stars Adam Sandler as a woman-chasing veterinarian (Henry) and Drew Barrymore (Lucy) as an amnesiac due to a brain injury during a car accident.

Henry is an ocean wildlife veterinarian in Hawaii who has built up a reputation of seducing attractive tourists who are looking to blow off some steam. In a chance encounter, he meets Lucy at a local restaurant and they connect, they have a great first date but the next day she looks at him like he's a stranger. He learns that a car accident a year ago has given her a head injury, permanently damaging her ability to form new long term memories, forgetting everything when she goes to bed and starts the next day as though it was the day of the accident. Her closest friends and family have resolved to let her believe it is the day of the accident.

Recognizing the difficulty of building a relationship with someone who will never remember him the next day, Henry finds himself unable to just let her go. So he resolves to "meet" her and have her fall in love with him anew every day. Hilarity Ensues.

This film provides examples of:

  • Accidental Innuendo: In-Universe. When Henry talks to Lucy again, he makes a joke about him and his walrus that Lucy finds suggestive and insulting and believes him to being a stalker as she claims to have never even met him. This confuses Henry, prompting Sue to explain things to him.
    Henry: My hands are extra fishy if you care to take a whiff.
    Lucy: (confused) What...was that?
    Henry: I was petting my walrus all morning and I was thinking about you the whole time.
    Lucy: Okay, pervert. I think you should leave.
  • The Ace: Ula's four sons and one daughter are all athletically gifted, which frustrates him because of how bad at sports he is.
  • Action Girl: When Henry has Ula pretend to beat him up as one of his attempts at a Meet Cute with Lucy, Lucy takes a baseball bat and comes to his "rescue."
  • All in the Manual: The photos and drawings scribbled in the end credits reveal that Henry and Lucy's daughter is named Nicole.
  • Almost Kiss: Defied. When Henry reunites with Lucy after several weeks of separation, they are about to kiss...until 10-second Tom breaks in for no apparent reason. But then, Henry shoos him away and continues the kiss, anyway.
  • Ambiguous Gender Identity:
    • Alexa. It's unknown if they're a effeminate guy, an androgynous woman or genderqueer.
    • Kevin James' character talking about his 'date' with Henry Roth in the prologue. It's unknown if they're a gay man or transgender.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Doug speaks with a lisp and fits into the Gym Bunny stereotype. He's also seen with Alexa at the end.
  • Ambiguously Bi:
    • The opening montage hints that Henry has had a relationship with a man (played by Kevin James), though it might have just been a one-sided crush.
    • Alexa, who nervously hits on a woman that Henry rejected in a bar, gives Henry advice on how to please a woman and later hits on Doug.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Henry delivers one to Lucy after returning to her and visiting her art studio.
    Henry: You erased me from your memories because you thought you were holding me back from having a full and happy life. But you made a mistake. Being with you is the only way I could have a full and happy life. You're the girl of my dreams... and apparently, I'm the man of yours.
  • Armour-Piercing Question: Henry calls out Marlin about how he clearly hasn't thought about how exactly they can keep their ruse going when eventually Lucy will wake up one day and find she's aged years overnight. Marlin tells him he thinks about that exact thing all the time.
  • Award-Bait Song: "Love Song" by 311. Though because it's a cover, it wouldn't be able to get a nomination.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Ula complains constantly about his wife and how miserable he is with her. He even rags on her while officiating Henry and Lucy’s wedding.
    Ula: Really? Even though in like, ten years she could really let herself go and sex could be like, nauseating for you?
    Henry: What are you nuts? Your wife’s right there!
    Ula’s Wife: (flips him off)
    Ula: I was just kidding, Muu-Muu!
  • Batter Up!: Henry has Ula pretend to beat him up so that Lucy could help him and therefore greet her. Lucy ends up beating Ula up with a metal baseball bat and chases him off while still beating him up.
    Ula: (running off) OH, YOU CRAZY BITCH!
    Lucy: Yeah, KEEP RUNNING!!
  • Big "WHY?!": Lucy appears to be yelling one of these when she discovers the truth about her memory being wiped due to an accident that happened to her a year prior and runs out on the deck in tears.
  • A Birthday, Not a Break: Lucy's accident happened on Marlin's birthday. The poor guy has to recreate his birthday over and over again to keep his daughter from being traumatized.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Lucy never truly recovers, though she does dream about Henry enough to almost remember him. The two marry and have a child, though Lucy still has to watch tapes of the events of her life since the accident to truly remember both of them. While it's clearly not ideal, they are making the best of a bad situation and living a happy life overall.
  • Break His Heart to Save Him: Lucy does this to Henry to prevent him from throwing his Alaska traveling plans and walrus studying career away for her.
  • Brick Joke: Averted: (or done in reverse) Kevin James has a bit part as the only male in the opening sequence recounting Henry's hookups, three years before I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry.
  • Cordon Bleugh Chef: Averted. Tattoo-Face suggests putting Peanut Butter Cups in Henry's eggs just because he heard they're his favorite. Henry politely declines.
  • Did Not Think This Through: Subverted. Henry tells Marlin they can't keep their ruse going forever because eventually Lucy will wake up one day and find she's aged years overnight. Marlin tells him he thinks about that exact thing all the time. He just doesn't have any better ideas.
  • Discount Lesbians: The end credits feature Jocko the walrus and his three mates Candace, Bernice and Rose exchanging kisses between one another. Yes, this means that Jocko's three mates are all bisexual... but since they're, you know, walruses, the audience doesn't think about it too deeply.
  • Distant Finale: Lucy wakes up and watches the "Good morning, Lucy" video, which shows her the October 13 accident and her friends wishing her happiness as usual... except that it ends with her and Henry's wedding. And then she comes outside to find that she's on board Henry's boat to Alaska, with Henry, Marlin, and her toddler daughter, Nicole, for company.
  • Dramatic Irony: The primary conflict of the film. Because Lucy's anterograde amnesia makes her unable to form new memories after a period of 24 hours, she wakes up everyday thinking that it's October 13 of the previous year. Unless she is told herself, she doesn't follow any developments of her social circle afterward, including her friends' marriage or parenthood. The most important thing, however, is that she doesn't remember ever falling in love with Henry, as to her, he's a new person everyday, even though they've been dating for weeks and possibly months. Exemplified best during a montage of the falls-in-love.
    Lucy: Nothing beats a first kiss.
    Henry: Yeah.
    (the next day)
    Lucy: Nothing beats a first kiss.
    Henry: Yeah.
    (repeated several times)
  • Dramedy: The movie deals with a soul-crushingly tragic situation, a woman with incurable amnesia, spliced with some absurd and funny moments.
  • Easy Amnesia: Averted. Also, Lucy is suffering from post-trauma memory loss. While it's much more common in real life, it's rarely depicted in cinema. She never gets cured in the end, and she and Henry have to use unconventional means to make the relationship work.
  • Empathic Environment: When Henry returns to the cafe for his breakfast date with Lucy it is raining. That is also when he learns about her rather tragic condition.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: In the opening monologue with the women describing their fling with Henry Roth, one of them is a man (played by Kevin James).
  • Exact Words:
    • After Marlin makes Henry promise to stay out of the cafe, he starts engineering ways for them to meet “naturally” on the road.
    • When Henry rushes to the institute because he thinks Lucy might remember him, he asks her if she knows who he is. She tells him she doesn't. But then she shows him a gallery of paintings of him she's painted based on her dreams, showing that while she doesn't know who he is, she does remember him.
  • Falling-in-Love Montage: Which repeats itself because of Lucy's amnesia, although Henry does his best to make it different each time.
  • Foreshadowing: Hints are dropped that something is off with Lucy. On the first day she meets Henry she’s wearing a pink shirt and white pants and complements Sue’s “new” haircut. On the second morning, she’s wearing a pink shirt and white pants and complements Sue’s “new” haircut.
  • Funny Background Event: In one scene, Doug climbs to a chandelier and starts doing vertical sit-ups there. Both the chandelier and Doug then fall down.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: When Sue is telling Henry about the car accident that happened to Marlin and Lucy, in a few shots shows a pineapple flying out of the car and onto the grass, as the same time the car collides into a tree.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: Due to Lucy's amnesia and her family’s decision to let her relive the day again and again rather than explain the truth and hurt her every morning. Sue puts it perfectly:
    Sue: She eats breakfast here every morning because that’s what she did on Sundays and October 13th was a Sunday... Lucy does the same thing, every day.
  • Helicopter Parents: Lucy's father does everything to make sure his daughter keeps reliving the same day and won't freak out. He also repeatedly tells Henry to stay away from Lucy. In the end, he joins Henry and Lucy as they leave Hawaii. Doug and the cafe denizens definitely have this vibe, too, possibly to a greater extent. Justified because of Lucy's condition. Henry actually calls Marlin out for enforcing this trope to an extreme extent by continually making Lucy living in a state of denial and not taking into factor of her future, or what would happen if she suddenly wakes up to see an old woman looking at her back from a mirror. Marlin actually has thought that part through, and dreads it. He just doesn't have any better ideas and is doing the best he can to shield her from further trauma.
  • Here We Go Again!: Marlin on the day Lucy finds out the truth. His tone and Doug’s reaction says they’ve been through this many times.
    Marlin: Having a bad day, Doug!
  • Hollywood Science: The exact type of amnesia depicted in film where an individual loses their memory of the last 24 hours when they wake up in the morning, referred to in the film as Goldfield Syndrome, does not exist. However, in the years since the film came out, a woman named Michelle Philpots was discovered to suffer from a case of anterograde amnesia that closely resembled the fictional condition in the film. Though in her case, she also has severe problems with memory over the course of the same day (as opposed to the film's neat "24 hour memory" plot).
    • The same is true for Ten-Second Tom: there are people whose memory "resets" every few minutes or even seconds (as described by Oliver Sacks in The man who mistook his wife for a hat), but the length depends on how long they keep their current train of thought, rather than having a fixed duration.
  • If It's You, It's Okay: Might be the case with Doug and Alexa, who are paired up at Henry and Lucy's wedding.
  • I Have This Friend: Used by Doug about his steroid use.
  • In the Local Tongue: After Ula says something deep and meaningful sounding to Henry as they are saying goodbye:
    Henry: Thanks buddy, that's beautiful. What's it mean again?
    Ula: Bring me back a t-shirt.note 
  • Internal Reveal: The audience already knows Lucy's predicament, but Lucy herself doesn't realize this until the expired ticket incident. Which she has to relieve every single day after for the rest of her life.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: This is why Lucy tries to cut Henry out of her life so he doesn't have to dedicate his life to caring for her.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Marlin and Doug are understandably bitter about Lucy's situation and don't take kindly to what they see as Henry taking advantage of her. However, as Henry sticks around and tries to help her recover, they warm up to him.
  • Ladykiller in Love: Henry's love-life consisted entirely of vacation flings with tourists until he met Lucy.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Lucy's condition is Handwaved away as being because "she can't convert her short-term memory into long-term memory in her sleep". Basically, she is totally normal except that every time she goes to sleep (what if she stays up on a 48-hour bender? Or if she takes an afternoon nap?) she forgets everything that happened since a car accident a year before the story starts. Her family and friends go to great lengths to keep her from noticing that years have passed since the day of her accident. When Henry learns about this, he calls bullshit on them, asking if they haven't wondered what will happen when Lucy suddenly wakes up and is in her forties.
  • Man Of My Dreams: Henry, for Lucy.
  • Maintain the Lie: Lucy's friends and family conspire to prevent her from learning about her amnesia. However, this ultimately doesn't work. A simple traffic ticket, glancing at a newspaper, or somebody like Henry coming into her life can break this lie easily. Henry straight up tells Marlin that Lucy will one day wake up to discover she's years older.
  • Meet Cute: Henry has one with Lucy, but Lucy has a new one with him every day.
  • Memory Gambit: Lucy eventually attempts to erase Henry from her memory, so she wouldn't screw up his plans to go to the Arctic and study walruses (or walri; the species he studies is ambiguously ambiguous). It ultimately fails, however, as she dreams about him almost every night and has an art studio full of paintings she's made of him.
  • Mood Whiplash: As Sue explains what happened to Lucy to Henry, a simple father-daughter bonding moment becomes terrifying in the flashback as Marlin swerved to avoid hitting a cow and crashed into a tree.
  • Never Learned to Read: Henry uses this as a trick to get Lucy to talk to him on one of the many days he introduces himself to her in the diner. He splashes water on his eyes and acts like he's crying until she comes to see what's wrong. When he confesses that he can't read the menu, she spends all morning sitting with him "teaching" him. He blows it though when he doesn't ask her for a second date (because he knows she won't remember) and she gets furious and reveals that she knew the whole thing was a ploy and went along with it because she liked him.
  • Noodle Incident: Doug got disqualified from the Mr. Hawaii contest due to steroid abuse.
    Doug I didn't know there was gonna be a urine test.
    • Dr. Goldberg wishing his wife had Goldfield Syndrome so she wouldn't remember when he insulted her mother.
    • While pretending to assault Henry, Ula rips into him about "making my sister clean your hotel room." Henry asks what that has to do with this, implying it's a real grievance.
  • Note to Self: Lucy keeps a journal to carry over the details of her life post-accident.
  • "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: From the video montage of everything Lucy missed in the past year: “Schwarzenegger Elected Governor... not kidding!”
  • One-Track-Minded Artist: After Lucy deletes Henry from her journal she holds no memory of who he is in her conscious mind. When Henry realizes she might remember him he rushes to see her, and while she admits she doesn't know him she shows him her studio, which is full of paintings of Henry. He appears in her dreams despite her amnesia, and she continues to paint him again and again.
  • Pair the Spares: It's sort of implied that Alexa and Doug hook up in the end.
  • Product Placement: The Beach Boys CD that Lucy sends to Henry near the end is the 1995 compilation 20 Good Vibrations: The Greatest Hits. More specifically, it's the 1999 reissue, identifiable by the addition of the "Volume 1" text on the cover.
  • Relationship Reset Button: Constantly for the rest of their life.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: The penguin, especially when he's wearing his little Hawaiian shirt.
  • Running Gag
  • Scary Polynesian Man: Nick aka "Tattoo Face."
    Nick: Hey, mister peanut butter cups!
    Henry: Hey, mister could-kill-me-with-one-punch!
  • Scenery Porn: Makes great use of Hawaiian locations and vistas.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Callahan Institute was "founded out of Sandusky Ohio by TB Callahan, the automotive components tycoon". To make it even clearer, Dan Aykroyd is the one who's saying the line.
    • When Henry is golfing with Ula and his kids, Ula attempts (badly) the trademark Happy Gilmore swing, only for Henry to say it's "the stupidest thing [he's] ever seen." The best is the kids then executing an adorable (and highly successful) version, in unison.
    • Ula is based on a real guy.
    • The two dolphins at Henry's place are named Mary-Kate and Ashley.
    • Lucy's family watches The Sixth Sense. Complete with Lucy being surprised at learning that Malcolm-er, Bruce Willis is a ghost, while her dad and brother just nod uninterestedly because they already know that.
    • Lucy reads Still Life With Woodpecker - A Sort Of A Love Story by Tom Robbins.
    • The Beach Boys is mentioned several times during the film and their music is played.
  • Spoiling Shout-Out: Lucy watches The Sixth Sense "for the first time" (due to amnesia), and at the end is wowed that Bruce Willis was a ghost. Her dad and brother, who already know the twist, just nod uninterestedly.
  • The Stoner: Ula, who is always smoking weed joints even though he denies it many times. Which would explain his behavior
  • Tagline: "Imagine having to win over the girl of your dreams... every friggin' day."
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Sandwich: Played for Drama. Marlin has gotten so sick of having to recreate his birthday that he throws away the cake.
  • Trademark Favorite Food:
    • Every morning, Lucy eats waffles for breakfast and makes little houses out of them.
    • Henry's favorite is Spam and Reese's peanut butter cups, though not together as Nick suggests.
  • Ugly Slavic Women: Played with by Alexa. They might not actually be a woman, but they're certainly not attractive, and judging by their accent, they're Eastern European.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: The cop that cites Lucy's car for being expired, is what leads to Lucy learning about her memory loss issue.
  • Warm-Hearted Walrus: Jocko the walrus is pretty friendly towards Henry and Lucy. And his three mates, by the end of the film.
  • Wham Line: Everything changes due to an expired license plate. And a newspaper reading "May 2004" instead of "October 2003" like Lucy had believed.
    Lucy: Oh no! This cop is writing me a ticket! (runs outside the café)
    Cop: The tags expired May of this year.
    Lucy: No, they expire May of next year!
    Henry: Officer, I think there's been some sort of mistake.
    Lucy: This is ridiculous! I'm not paying for this. It's October! (grabs newspaper) Look...October...What?!
    • When Henry sobs listening to "Wouldn't It Be Nice" by The Beach Boys:
    Henry: Wait a minute, he [Marlin] trying to tell me something?
    (flashback shows Lucy singing the exact same song while painting)
    Marlin: (in flashback) She only sings on days she meets you.
    Henry: She remembers me? Holy shit!
  • Wham Shot: In-Universe example. Lucy is shocked and confused to find the newspapers reading "May 2004" instead of "October 2003" like she thought.


Video Example(s):


50 First Date's Ending

As Alpharad points out, the ending to 50 First Dates does not feel like the happy ending it makes itself out to be, rather a downer ending to a horror film, even pointing out how the song the film closes out on has its lyrics directly hinting at this dark ending.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (18 votes)

Example of:

Main / EsotericHappyEnding

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