Modern dating is a jungle of random hook-ups, Internet dating sites with questionable profiles, and other hurdles When Harry Met Sally never had to contend with. In fact, if you want to get a safe if disturbing look at how romance has changed just take a gander at the current state of romantic comedies, which have been forever altered by social networking and the ease it brings to casual sex. But does that simplicity come with the price of reduced intimacy? Of course it does, and in Two Night Stand two desperate millennials looking for easy sex are forced to actually get to know one another, with modestly charming and even perceptive results.
First-time director Max Nichols (son of director Mike Nichols) chose wisely with his leads, Miles Teller and the lesser-known but bubbly Analeigh Tipton. She makes for an unconventional romantic lead which works because the same applies to Teller, an actor who has shown incredible range in more serious films in the past. He’s not called upon to do quite as much here, although Nichols and screenwriter Mark Hammer have an ear for millennial lingo, crucial considering the film is basically a two-hander set in one cramped apartment. Tipton plays Megan, stuck in a rut since her longtime boyfriend left her, and now she spends Saturday nights lounging at home in frumpy sweatpants. Encouraged by her roommate (Jessica Szohr, with Kid Cudi as her boyfriend) to get back out there, Megan hits an online dating site for a quick hook-up, something she’s never done before. She quickly meets Alec (Teller), who seems to be exactly what she’s looking for; meaning he’s cute, uncommitted, and not a serial killer. A quick scan via webcam confirms no bodies hanging on his apartment walls.
The night of awkward sex ends with the equally embarrassing “walk of shame”, but not before the two realize they have nothing in common. Attempting to flee his Brooklyn crib and back home, she’s prevented by a Roland Emmerich-style blizzard that has shut down the city. She’s not going anywhere, and is stuck getting to know Alec when she hoped to never see him again. If you guessed this would be the chance for two heart-hardened strangers to fall in love after only a few hours then you’re right. The path to getting there is a bumpy one comedically, as the script tries too hard to come up with catchy, pseudo-intellectual quips about dating. The phrase “Benjamin-Buttoning” is used to describe Megan’s backsliding in life, but the silly lingo doesn’t do much to acquaint us with either character. Nor does the silly sitcom plotting that involves vomit, overflowing toilets, and petty crime provide much in the way of laughs.
It’s not until the film takes a more serious turn that Nichols and Hammer start dropping a few pearls. A frank conversation about men and women helping one another have better sex has some real insights. And once we see Megan and Alec put all of their emotional cards on the table it also opens up the performances by Teller and Tipton. Both strike a believable vulnerability as two people who have been bruised by love and are reluctant to give it another shot. Teller seems to be able to build chemistry with anybody, a rare talent that should take him far. Tipton has the much flakier role to play and she manages to be endearing rather than irritating. Ultimately, Two Night Stand is about the way such people use whatever is at their disposal to protect themselves from more hurt. Sometimes that’s a convenient half-truth, or a dating profile that needs an update.