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Review:  ‘Two Night Stand’ a one-act sex comedy that grows cold too soon

Analeigh Tipton and Miles Teller must unexpectedly spend time together in “Two Night Stand.”
Analeigh Tipton and Miles Teller must unexpectedly spend time together in “Two Night Stand.”
(Seacia Pavao / Entertainment One Films)
Los Angeles Times Film Critic

All rom-coms are contrivances. “Two Night Stand,” however, is more modern than most. Starring Miles Teller and Analeigh Tipton, it ties the requisite “meet-cute” to the current state of sexual affairs in a wired world, where casual encounters with complete strangers are easy to arrange. Think Tinder.

If only this didn’t amount to a foreword and a footnote in Mark Hammer’s script, which was pulled from Hollywood’s Black List of unproduced screenplays. The bulk of the film is about what happens when a paralyzing blizzard turns a random hook-up into an uneasy trap. Will some sort of shared Stockholm syndrome emerge, or will sniping set in?

It turns out “Two Night Stand” is a one-act sex comedy badly in need of two more — acts, not nights.

The film starts promisingly by toying with the way emotional intimacy is so elusive in a digital hook-up era — a glimpse of Megan (Tipton) waking up to a regret-filled morning after is revealing. Director Max Nichols in his first feature shows a flair for knowing when to get in close, letting director of photography Bobby Bukowski spend plenty of time on his stars’ expressive faces.

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But problems surface when the camera pulls back to survey the scene. Even rom-coms must start making sense.

Consider Alec’s (Teller) one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment, the hook-up site. It’s your basic general-purpose open space, then bedroom and bath. Now keep in mind these two relative strangers are edgy about their situation. Discomfort usually heightens the powers of perception. Yet somehow Alex constructs an elaborate blanket fort for a snow-day picnic. Surely Megan would notice. ...

But before the movie gets into any grand romantic gestures, the filmmakers want to rewind and introduce us properly.

Megan, the film suggests, is more typical than you might think, a decent sort caught in a downward spiral. Recent college grad, no job and a broken engagement producing a bad case of the blues. Her roommate Faiza (Jessica Szohr) suggests a diversion: one-night stand, no strings.

Megan has reservations, but bumping into her ex (Josh Salatin) and his new girlfriend sends her straight to the Internet. After a little flirty instant-messaging, she’s headed to Brooklyn and Alec. Is this the time to suggest perhaps stay-at-home porn?

Before we get to the coupling strangers, first a word about computer behavior as depicted in movies. Everyone’s doing it these days; not many, however, are doing it well. Rule of thumb for filmmakers: If it’s mundane in real life, it will be mundane on-screen. So unless you’ve had some kind of epiphany that involves incredible visuals, please resist. There are no epiphanies in “Two Night Stand.”

Now to the morning after. With the blizzard in full force, Megan and Alec’s getting-to-know-you phase soon devolves into bickering. A clogged toilet only makes matters worse.

To fill the time after a truce is hammered out, Alec suggests they try a bit of truth-telling about their encounter last night to help each other become better sex partners. His rationale? To, you know, make the experience more satisfying for the next person they sleep with. So, no board games, I guess.

Actually this is where the film threatens to get interesting. Sex is still such a taboo topic in American films, even indies trying to walk on the wild side. It makes the idea of two people talking candidly about what they like and don’t like when making love seem novel.

But “Two Night Stand” can’t sustain the idea long enough to be satisfying. Soon enough the exchanges between the couple go from serious to ludicrous. Meanwhile, over the course of the two nights, their relationship goes full circle — from nothing to something to nothing. Will fate step in? Will another snow storm intervene?

What helps is the couple. Tipton and Teller fall into that category of twentysomething actors on the rise. She’s most memorable as the babysitter crushing on Steve Carell in “Crazy, Stupid Love,” but starting Tuesday, she’s co-starring in the new ABC sitcom “Manhattan Love Story,” so that may change.

Teller is perhaps known best for having an increasingly long list of films clogging his credit list. But one of my favorites is the hard-drinking high school player who smartens up spectacularly in “The Spectacular Now” opposite Shailene Woodley.

At points, sparks do fly between these two hot properties. But rather than fanning the flames, “Two Night Stand” just grows cold.

Follow me on Twitter: @BetsySharkey

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‘Two Night Stand’

MPAA rating: R for sexual material, language and some drug use

Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes

Playing: AMC Burbank Town Center 8


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