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One Night Stand

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: One Night Stand

Starring: Wesley Snipes, Nastassja Kinski
Director: Mike Figgis
Rated: R
RunTime: 103 Minutes
Release Date: November 1997
Genres: Drama, Romance

Reviewer Roundup
1.  MrBrown review follows movie review
2.  Steve Rhodes read the review movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
3.  Harvey Karten read the review ---

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.

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