D: Max Nichols / 86m
Cast: Analeigh Tipton, Miles Teller, Jessica Szohr, Scott Mescudi, Leven Rambin
Megan (Tipton) is unemployed, single, and getting on her roommate’s nerves. She prevaricates over getting a job, and won’t go out and meet new people, preferring to stay in the flat and waste her time. Pushed to do something different she signs up to a dating website but doesn’t arrange to meet anyone. One night she’s finally convinced by Faiza (Szohr), her roommate, to come out with her and her boyfriend, Cedric (Mescudi). But the evening backfires when she sees her ex-boyfriend with his new partner. Upset and angry, she goes home and decides to “get her own back” by meeting one of the men on the dating website. She chooses Alec (Teller) and goes to his apartment where they have a one night stand.
The next morning, a few wrong words leads to an argument and Megan leaving the apartment – but not the building; overnight a blizzard has deposited three feet of snow against the door of the building, and Megan can’t get out. With little choice but to return to Alec’s apartment they slowly, but with some effort, begin to make the best of a bad situation, and get to know each other a bit better. They discuss their views on relationships, and sex, and decide to be brutally honest with each other about how they were during their one night stand. Over the next day, their relationship improves but stalls when Megan finds a closet full of women’s clothes and learns that Alec has a girlfriend, Daisy (Rambin). Alec explains that Daisy is away but the reason Megan is there is that he found a break-up note Daisy had written but not given him. To get back at her, he joined the dating website. Angry, and with the snow having abated enough, Megan leaves.
When Daisy returns home, she finds a note that Megan had written, while he reveals her note to him, and they split up. Later, on New Year’s Eve, Megan is arrested at a party for breaking and entering; while she and Alec were together they broke into his neighbour’s apartment to find a toilet plunger. Alec has planted Megan’s note there in a bizarre attempt at getting back in touch with her as he can’t stop thinking about her, but when he tries to bail her out she refuses to budge. It’s only when Faiza does that she is released, but Alec isn’t giving up…
As an attempt to do something slightly different with the rom-com format, Two Night Stand is an awkward mix of the refreshing and the inevitable, as it plays around with an established formula to sometimes winning, but equally distracting effect. Playing Russian roulette with the concept of honesty in a relationship, the movie tries to show that while it’s a wonderful idea in principle, in practice it’s prone to so many pitfalls you might as well not bother.
In rom-coms we’re used to seeing characters hold back on their feelings, or mistrust their partner’s motives, or skirt uncomfortably around the heart of a particular matter, and Two Night Stand does its best to waive all that aside and focus on two people who try to be open and honest from the start rather than finding out the truth about each other much later on. It’s a neat spin on the traditional idea that new partners set out to impress each other at the beginning and present the best version of themselves (only to relax into their usual personalities when the relationship is established). Of course, that kind of grandstanding is essentially unavoidable, and both Megan and Alec still try to impress each other, fanning that spark of attraction that has brought them together in the first place. They’re a match for each other – not that they realise this so much, though – but they have to endure some trials and tribulations before they work this out (and as usual one of them has to be persuaded by the other). It’s standard fare, pleasingly done, but nothing we haven’t seen a thousand times before.
The performances are above average, with Tipton shrugging off her supporting actress mantle and grabbing a lead role with gusto. She’s a gauche, intuitive presence on screen, gangly but with her own peculiar physical grace, and she makes Megan an appealing person to spend time with, insecure, clumsy, self-reliant despite any apparent real experience of life, and despite her reluctance to commit to romance after breaking up with her ex. As she navigates the troubled waters of internet dating, and the Alec’s murkier motives for doing so as well, Tipton maintains an honesty that befits the character and makes her entirely credible. Teller keeps it real as well, investing Alec with a self-protective, evasive veneer that is at first off-putting, but which becomes entirely understandable once Daisy’s note is revealed. He portrays Alec like a man caught between doing what’s right and what’s wrong, and not caring either way. It’s a winning performance, light-hearted when it needs to be, earnest at other times, but always carefully balanced so that Alec’s never too obnoxious or too offhand.
Good as their performances are though, neither Tipton nor Teller can compensate for the narrative version of jumping through hoops that the movie indulges in in its final third. It’s almost as if the script – by Mark Hammer – doesn’t really know what to do with Megan and Alec once she leaves his building, and the manner in which they’re reunited is so contrived as to be incredible. Not even Nichols, making his feature debut, can compensate for the straight up absurdity of the situation, and the result is a movie that goes from mostly entertaining to full-on bizarre in a matter of minutes. Bereft of an organic conclusion, Two Night Stand trusts to the standard emotional outpouring by one of the characters, and the equally standard (blanket) acceptance of same by the recipient. Trust and early love are resumed, and everyone lives happily ever after… probably.
Rating: 6/10 – bright and breezy, with some tellingl insights into modern relationships peppered throughout its first hour, Two Night Stand benefits from two sterling performances and a largely theatrical presentation; heartfelt and amusing for the most part (if not entirely original), the movie runs aground in the final third and never recovers.