One Night Stand

Memphis Flyer

DIRECTED BY: Mike Figgis

REVIEWED: 11-24-97

One Night Stand, director Mike Figgis’ follow-up to his acclaimed previous picture Leaving Las Vegas, fails and fails badly. What promises to be at the very least titillating, with its storyline involving infidelity, turns out to be a yawn.

It opens with Wesley Snipes, playing successful L.A. TV-commercial director Max Carlyle, explaining documentary-style to the camera why he happens to be in New York. He’s there for work and, he says, to visit, his estranged friend Charlie (Robert Downey Jr.) who he’s just learned has HIV. Circumstances cause him to miss his plane, so he takes in a concert with a new acquaintance named Karen (Nastassja Kinski). After Max saves Karen from being mugged, she falls into his arms, and together, they both commit adultery.

Back in L.A., Max rejoins his life of shooting highly pretentious commercials and bickering with his wife (Ming-Na Wen) over his holier-than-thou posing and his low sex drive. A year later, he’s back in New York to visit Charlie, now in a hospital weeks away from dying. There, he stumbles into Karen again. It turns out she’s Charlie’s sister-in-law.

Wesley Snipes in Mike Figgis' One Night Stand

Where Figgis rattled emotions with Leaving Las Vegas, he can barely get a pulse reading with One Night Stand. There are some tense moments that make Max sweat. When he returns to L.A. unshowered after his tryst, the family dog sniffs at his lap, and when Karen and his wife meet over Charlie’s hospital bed, he shifts nervously. But these instances exist within a lot of padding – scenes of dinner parties, bedside celebrations for Charlie, professional squabbling between Max and his boss – so that the core of what this movie is supposed to be about gets buried. What drives Karen and Max to cheat? The answer is simple: they’re in the same room, they’ve got some energy to burn from the stress of the mugging, and it’s way too late for anything good to be on television. And what are the consequences? Save for a few caught-with-your-pants-down moments, the players are kept from anything too sticky. In fact, One Night Stand may possess one of the lousiest payoffs in recent movie history.

The actors are cast out with nothing to hang onto. Some muddle through it better than others. Snipes bears it out as best as he can, feeling his way as he goes, as if he can’t entirely get comfortable in this character. Kinski, for her part, is especially remote, like she’s acting behind a scrim, which seems to be evidence that her character – a rocket scientist, no less – wasn’t fully developed. Wen throws a little oomph behind her small role with her false giggles and bad jokes. The actor who really gets a beating is Robert Downey Jr., who spends most of his screentime gasping behind an oxygen mask. This appears to be his punishment for behaving so badly in the past. He must serve as the dying man who imparts wisdom, the raspier it’s delivered the better. “Life is an orange,” he tells Max. What does it mean? Like the rest of One Night Stand, it means nothing at all.

--Susan Ellis

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

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