by Rob DiCristino
Mimi Cave’s Fresh begins with a first date from hell. Actually, it’s the prelude to a first date from hell, as Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) is already commiserating with best friend Mollie (Jonica T. Gibbs) over the phone: Tonight’s suitor reminded Noa beforehand that the restaurant he’s chosen is cash only, a not-so-subtle hint that they’ll be splitting the check. With a love connection firmly out of the question, Noa now just needs to decide if she’s hungry enough to put up with this chump for an hour. Every date seems to go this way for Noa — She can’t even send one innocuous response on a dating app without getting a wave of unsolicited dick pics — so much so that she’s tempted to give up on the whole thing altogether. Still, she decides to take one last chance on Steve (Sebastian Stan), a charming surgeon whose wry smile and self-effacing humor disarm her enough for a few Manhattans and a roll in the hay. This isn’t like her, Mollie protests, but the alluring Steve is such a refreshing change of pace from the usual dreck that Noa agrees to a weekend getaway.
It’s then — after we finally get the opening credits — that the movie really begins. Noa adjusts to dungeon life and makes friends with cellmate Penny (Andrea Bang), while Mollie follows Noa’s breadcrumbs from the bartender who last saw her with Steve (Dayo Okeniyi as her former hookup, Paul) to Steve’s vapid Stepford wife, Ann (Charlotte Le Bon). Meanwhile, Steve lets his freak flag fly, flaying up co-eds and tanning hides so savory they’d make Hannibal Lecter shake in his sleek, Lithuanian boots. Despite some strong adorkableness from Edgar-Jones (star of the excellent Normal People), Sebastian Stan is Fresh’s clear standout performance. His gleeful narcissism is really no different than that of all those Chads that Noa’s been shuffling through for years, and any woman who has ever been called a bitch will recognize the ways she plays on that ego to craft her escape. He may have movie star good looks, but Stan also has a bit of menace about him, and Fresh takes it to its logical conclusion. He’s a nice guy, he assures Noa. Why not give him a smile?
Fresh is available on Hulu now.