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The idea of starting a movie by depicting a one-night stand and then expanding the story from there is nothing new. Terrence McNally’s most popular play, Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune (which was turned into a movie with Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer in 1991) utilized this premise. Those with long memories may also recall John and Mary, a 1969 romance starring Dustin Hoffman and Mia Farrow. So the new comedy, Two Night Stand, directed by Max Nichols (yes, he’s the son of Mike Nichols, who launched Hoffman’s career with The Graduate), doesn’t break any new ground, except perhaps to twentysomething viewers who might be tickled by a story that starts with an internet hookup. Essentially a two-character piece, the film benefits from the casting of Miles Teller and Analeigh Tipton, but it isn’t original or compelling enough to hit box office paydirt.
Screenwriter Mark Hammer — who, like Nichols, is making his feature debut — has provided some sharp dialogue for the wary pair of lovers, though he also resorts to pat, tired plotting. The complication here is that when Megan (Tipton) wakes up after her night of sex with a stranger and starts to tiptoe out of his Brooklyn apartment, she finds the entrance blocked by a massive overnight snowstorm. So she and Alec (Teller) are forced to spend another day together inside his apartment and get to know each other better. Some of their exchanges — like a sequence in which they give each other tips on how to become better lovers — are sharp and well written. But not all of their exchanges boast such fresh insights. Hammer tries to vary the setup by introducing phone conversations with Megan’s roommate (Jessica Szohr) and her boyfriend (rapper Scott Mescudi). But these cutaways never engage us. More successful are the intermittent weather reports, which parody the typically breathless flavor of today’s TV reportage (Michael Showalter is hilarious as the bombastic weatherman).
Plot developments sputter. When Megan makes a discovery about Alec’s romantic history, her violent reaction seems excessive considering that she just met him 24 hours earlier. And his desperate ploy to find her again after she flies out in a rage also rings false. Nichols’ direction does manage to make the most of the claustrophobic setting, though it’s hard to judge the extent of his talent based on this modest offering.
Fortunately, the two stars always brighten the proceedings. Teller has already established himself as one of our most likable and versatile young actors. His acclaimed performance in the Sundance hit Whiplash is already generating well deserved awards buzz. This movie doesn’t require such heavy lifting from him, but he’s consistently engaging and even soulful. When Megan confesses how her former fiancé broke off their engagement, Alec replies. “He has no idea how rare you are.” That’s a simple line, but I can’t imagine another actor of any age delivering that declaration with the originality and feeling that Teller supplies. Tipton, who may be best known for her rather irritating role as the lustful babysitter in the Steve Carell comedy, Crazy Stupid Love, makes an equally strong impression. She exudes an appealing vulnerability and matches up well with Teller.
Despite their best efforts and those of an accomplished technical team (headed by cinematographer Bobby Bukowski), this film emerges as a likeable but forgettable trifle.
Cast: Miles Teller, Analeigh Tipton, Jessica Szohr, Scott Mescudi, Michael Showalter.
Director: Max Nichols.
Screenwriter: Mark Hammer.
Producers: Beau Flynn, Ruben Fleischer, Sam Englebardt, William D. Johnson.
Executive producers: Adam Yoelin, Mark Hammer, David Greathouse, Lauren Selig.
Director of photography: Bobby Bukowski.
Production designer: Molly Hughes.
Costume designer: Amy Roth.
Editor: Matt Garner.
Music: The De Luca Brothers.
Casting: Angela Demo, Barbara J. McCarthy.
Rated R, 86 minutes.
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