'One Last Night': Film Review

You'll feel their pain.

A couple on their first date gets locked inside a movie theater overnight in Anthony Sabet's romantic comedy.

As the filmmaker informs us in a director's note, Anthony Sabet's debut feature One Last Night is based on a real-life event in which he and a young woman accidentally got locked inside a movie theater while on a first date. It sounds like a memorable experience, but while one of the first rules of writing is to write what you know, Sabet's romantic comedy demonstrates that not everything that actually happens to you can be mined for comedic gold. The pic starts out promisingly enough, but eventually sinks under the weight of its implausibilities.

The story involves Alex (Luke Brandon Field) and Zoe (Rachele Schank, FX's Legion), who have connected online and are meeting in person for the first time at a small Los Angeles single-screen movie theater. The evening, for which Zoe has arrived less than enthused, doesn't start out well. Alex's cellphone doesn't work inside the theater, so he has to go outside to retrieve the electronic tickets. And although the refreshment stand is obviously open, the standoffish employee (Ali Cobrin) behind the counter informs them that no popcorn is sold after 10 p.m.

The exasperated couple, who seem to have taken an instant dislike to each other, settle into their seats in the empty theater. It's empty for a moment, that is, until a large man (Brian Baumgartner, instantly familiar from his role as the dim-witted Kevin Malone on The Office, working here in a similar vein) sits down almost directly in front of them and proceeds to loudly ingest a giant-sized tub of popcorn and barrel-sized soda that he's somehow managed to procure, as he snorts with laughter while watching the film.

After the movie is over, Alex and Zoe linger a few minutes to trade barbs and so she can use the restroom. When she emerges, Alex informs her that the theater is now empty and that they're inexplicably locked in. They decide to wait it out, assuming that they'll be eventually be seen by a guard monitoring the security cameras.

At this point it's only a few minutes into One Last Night, and it's already impossible to suspend one's disbelief. Would there really be 24-hour video surveillance of the interior of a rundown movie theater? Is it possible that cellphones are completely dysfunctional inside it, or that there are no landline phones on the premises? Are there no emergency exits? And what kind of locked doors can't be opened from the inside?

Those reasonable questions wouldn't matter so much if what transpired proved more interesting. Alex displays a remarkable facility for operating a popcorn machine (his parents had one when he was a child, he explains), so they whip up a fresh batch and engage in a popcorn food fight. Alex also seems to know how to work a theater projector, so he and Zoe settle down to watch a short film, of which we see excerpts. Meanwhile, there seems to be a security guard after all, since there are frequent cutaways to him blissfully sleeping in front of the video monitors. Strangely enough, he's the man who was sitting in the movie theater.

To reveal more would be too much of a spoiler, but suffice it to say that the convoluted plot machinations that ensue are even harder to swallow. It doesn't help that the endlessly talky proceedings, mostly set in one indoor location, would seem to be better suited for the stage despite the filmmaker's attempts to liven things up with the occasional use of cutesy animations.  

Romantic comedies are hardly known for their gritty realism, and we might have been able to go with the film's flow if the central characters were more charming. Alas, their initial lack of chemistry proves prophetic and, despite the strenuous efforts of the attractive lead performers, we have little interest in seeing them come together. It's a fatal flaw from which One Last Night never recovers.

Production company-distributor: ASA Pictures
Cast: Rachele Schank, Luke Brandon Field, Brian Baumgartner, Ali Cobrin, Kelly Stables
Director-writer-producer: Anthony Sabet
Executive producer: Matt DeMarco
Director of photography: Anthony Brooks
Production designer: Billy Jett
Composer: Anthony Willis
Costume designer: Olivia Carrano

83 minutes