By Clarisse Loughrey [email protected]
The cultural consensus has been slowly letting the bar drop on rom-coms for years now. In some strange parallel to Two Night Stand’s own recently dumped lead, whose all-consuming sexual frustration leads her to pursue the very first dude who doesn’t reply to her online dating messages with “sup girl?”, the very existence of a rom-com which doesn’t come across as outwardly offensive to our core ideals somehow feels like a cinematic triumph.
That is to say, though Two Night Stand might lack any particular finesse or grand insight, it at least feels like someone tried. And, I guess, that counts for a lot nowadays. We finally scanned the surface of the alien planet and found signs of life; snatches of funny, memorable dialogue which culminate in a sexual stand-off which somehow references both Helen Keller and Mortal Kombat.
There’s a genuine exploratory notion to Two Night Stand’s ambitions, a desire to unpack the impact of the modern relationship on a millennial generation already hopelessly lost in the dense woodlands of adulthood, without resorting to the usual tropes of frat-boy debauchery. Alec (Miles Teller) and Megan (Analeigh Tipton) are the aimless youth who refuse to bow to our fervent obsessions with wild ambition and unattainable goals yet still somehow fall prey to its clutches. When ambition seeps even into the very heart of love (#relationshipgoals), we end up living in a world in which it’s actually the children of happy marriages who get screwed over the most, at least as this film proposes.
Admittedly, the real saviours here are its lead actors, with Tipton managing to project something a lot smarter and more self-assured than the grotesque parodies of awkward womanhood we’re usually served by Hollywood, that kind of barely functioning human being who can’t get through a single day without pouring coffee down their shirt and falling into a giant pile of garbage. And Miles Teller? Well, anyone’s who seen Whiplash knows the dude’s a sure bet, and here he gracefully navigates his character away from the realm of unbearable douchebag using just the right level of wounded insecurity.
However, for every stride Two Night Stand takes, it takes two steps back in its own frustrating adherence to genre restrictions. Promising ideas get bungled in the race to turn lovers to enemies to friends to lovers, all in time for the third-act dramatic break-up, redemption, and ultimate reunion. These moments are so forced they become borderline nonsensical, with Megan’s repulsion towards her former lover a momentary feeling swiftly rectified with a hit of weed. Seriously, this movie is basically positing that marijuana is the key to a woman’s heart.
It’s in these moments you begin to question the overriding influences that steer the modern screenplay. Are we talking here about a generation of screenwriters so ingrained with a certain set of cultural rules that their minds become simply incapable of thinking beyond the narrative tropes? Or is this just the result of conscious or subconscious pressure from unadventurous investors and statistic-driven production companies? You’ve got to wonder what kind of movie this would have turned out as if it had been granted with zero creative restrictions. Yet as it stands, Two Night Stand is a decent rom-com which just didn’t have the guts to be a great rom-com.
Two night Stand is released in cinemas and on VOD on Friday February 13th