Too many times in the world of indie film, the prospect of "two characters plus one location" has been the kind of budget-minded decision with no artistic payoff. But "Night Owls," the second feature by Charles Hood, who wrote the film with Seth Goldsmith, manages a simmering romantic-comic tension thanks to an emotionally wise screenplay and a couple of nicely pinging performers.
It starts with a drunken tryst in a well-appointed home between strangers who met at a banquet: sexy Madeline (Rosa Salazar) is a tart-tongued gal with a devilish glint in her eye, and Kevin (Adam Pally), the credulous dude who doesn't know what hit him. Until he finds out, that is, when he discovers her unconscious a few hours later and learns she's his married boss' ex-mistress.
Yes, it's Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine in "The Apartment." But once that gently cribbed scenario's desperation humor ebbs and the early, self-consciously snappy exchanges fall away, a nicely bittersweet, funny two-hander emerges.
Then it's simply two smart, realistically witty characters teasing out each other's delusions, morals and ideals and addressing the unseen (till the end) figure they share in common. Instead of sinking into crude, one-night-stand joke territory, "Night Owls" roots around for the spark of real chemistry and, in the winning turns of Pally and Salazar, finds it.
No MPAA rating.
Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.