One Night Stand

Gambit Weekly

DIRECTED BY: Mike Figgis

REVIEWED: 12-08-97

Mike Figgis' One Night Stand does so many things well and generates so much artistic momentum that it's all the sadder that the last quarter of the picture turns into such an overheated mess.

One Night Stand is the story of a successful Los Angeles commercial director named Max (Wesley Snipes) who journeys to New York to visit an old friend, Charlie (Robert Downey Jr.), a gay dancer who has just learned he is HIV positive. Max is happily married to a vivacious and beautiful wife, Mimi (Ming-Na Wen), and is the father of two healthy children.

Life has been so good to Max that he's unprepared for what happens to him in Manhattan. Already distressed by Charlie's illness, Max is mugged at knifepoint and ends up at the apartment of a beautiful, married (her husband is out of town) woman named Karen (Nastassja Kinski) who was mugged and molested at his side. Deeply shaken, these two strangers try to reassure each other and end up making love in a kind of trance. Their coupling seems as much about comfort and secure human contact as sex. The next morning, they agree that "nothing" happened, that they both fully intend to return to the lives they led before their uncharacteristic union. But it is not nearly so easy as that.

It says something very hopeful about the contemporary world that race plays no part whatsoever in this film's proceedings, despite the fact that Max is black, Mimi is Asian and Karen is white. Moreover, Rich character development is a terrific strength of Figgis' screenplay. Max is not a cheater. It takes unusual circumstances to make him stray. He is handsome, talented and fundamentally decent, but he also can be difficult and superior.

Mimi is a sexual pepper pot; in terms of her sexual energy, enthusiasm and imagination, she's every man's dream-wife. She's faithful and a good mother but she's not as serious a person as her husband; she's more interested in good times and good living than, for instance, Max's artistic integrity. Our heart goes out to Charlie, of course, because he's dying. But he's no stereotypical victim; he can be cold and vengeful. Charlie's brother Vernon (Kyle MacLachlan) is guardedly homophobic. At the same time, his obvious and intense love for his brother transcends his feelings of contempt for Charlie's lifestyle.

Things begin to go awry when it turns out that Vernon is Karen's husband and that Max and Karen will be reunited when Charlie goes to the hospital under a death watch. From that point forward, Figgis seems to lose his way almost altogether. He abandons a keener examination of how even an arguably justifiable and understandable instance of infidelity can haunt the unfaithful even when there's no chance of being found out. In its place, he substitutes a thoroughly dishonest romantic fantasy. That everything works out here as it does is preposterous and thematically objectionable.

Too bad. I feel like I went to a fancy dinner party with sparkling crystal and antique china only to have the host serve up Big Macs, tater tots and with Kool-Aid.

--Rick Barton

Full Length Reviews
One Night Stand
One Night Stand
One Night Stand
One Night Stand
One Night Stand

Capsule Reviews
One Night Stand
One Night Stand

Other Films by Mike Figgis
Leaving Las Vegas
Loss of Sexual Innocence

Film Vault Suggested Links
The Last Days of Disco
Feast of July
Hideous Kinky

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