Review by MrBrown
1 star out of 4
One Night Stand began life as another Joe Eszterhas sex romp, but after
Leaving Las Vegas's Mike Figgis came on board to direct and extensively
rewrite the script, Eszterhas amicably relinquished all writing credit.
Figgis's resulting film is perhaps more serious-minded than Eszterhas
originally intended, but after a promising start, this look at adultery
loses its way--and, in the end, anything resembling a point.
The film begins rather oddly, with Max Carlyle (Wesley Snipes, who won the
Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival for his fine performance) emerging
from a New York hotel and introducing himself directly to the camera. He
is a successful Los Angeles commercial director, with a large house, a
beautiful wife named Mimi (Ming-Na Wen), and two young children. Max's
family does not accompany him on this trip, which he makes partly for
business but mostly to reconnect with his former best friend, gay,
AIDS-stricken performance artist Charlie (Robert Downey Jr.).
Unexpected chaos and confusion (involving a hotel clerk played by Figgis
himself, hiding his moptop under a bad Elvis-like wig) prompt Max to stay
in New York for an extra night, and by chance he meets Karen (Nastassja
Kinski), a mysterious blonde who is also married. The traumatic
circumstances that lead to the titular adulterous encounter are mechanical,
but, under the director's capable hand, they are quite believable, and when
the two do fall into bed, it is depicted in a non-exploitative (and very
non-Eszterhas) fashion: brief glimpses, sensuously scored by Figgis
himself, punctuated by fadeouts (the latter a visual flourish Figgis comes
to overuse as the film progresses).
The next day Max returns home to L.A. feeling removed from his life, and
this is where the film starts running into some trouble. While the reasons
behind his feelings of detachment are completely understandable, those
behind the strain between Max and Mimi are not. Certainly the one night
would cause some marital turbulence, but it is implied that their marriage
already had some underlying problems, a point which is poorly established
(the only detectable problem is Mimi's aggressiveness in the bedroom).
More strain comes a year later, when Max, this time with Mimi in tow,
returns to the Big Apple to visit the now-bedridden Charlie, and
reencounters Karen, who, as it turns out, is married to Charlie's brother
Vernon (Kyle MacLachlan).
With his discreet handling of the one night, Figgis successfully
establishes that the Max and Karen's initial encounter is not about a cheap
thrill. But it is also meant to show a passionate spiritual connection
being made between Max and Karen, which I could not grasp; instead I simply
saw two people clinging to each other in a moment of weakness--no more, no
less. So when the reunited Max and Karen try hard to not give in to their
feelings, one wonders exactly what those feelings are. Lust? No; their
night together is shown as more than a cheap thrill. Love? That seems to
be the intent, but one never gets a clear idea of it, especially since we
get no real insight into what Karen feels the whole time, and Kinski adds
no dimension to her flatly written role. In fact, the only characters that
are not written with any depth are Max and Charlie (marvelously played by
Downey), who, not surprisingly, serves as the voice of reason.
Figgis told Entertainment Weekly that he does not think that any of the
original Eszterhas script remains in the film, but one would never guess
based on the pair of twists that cap the film. Lacking in any concrete
buildup, subtle or overt, these developments seem to come straight out of
Eszerhas's manipulative bag of tricks. As problematic as I found One Night
Stand to be for much of its running time, at the very least it appeared to
be setting up a point. But by the time the conclusion rolls around, you
wonder if Figgis ever really had one.