Early in Two Night Stand, a young woman named Megan (Analeigh Tipton), still bruised from a recent breakup, decides to give online dating a try. “Dating” isn’t the right word, perhaps—she’s specifically seeking a no-strings hookup, hoping sex will replenish her dwindling supply of self-esteem. Not long after completing her profile, she’s astonished to find that her inbox is swamped with propositions, mostly from scary-looking middle-aged men with frighteningly specific requests. Megan spends the rest of the film wading through a sea of poisoned testosterone, searching for someone who might not be totally gross. The closing credits scroll over a shot of her sitting at her laptop, still deleting message after message.
No, sorry, that’s the realistic version of this scenario. What happens in Two Night Stand is that Megan gets just four replies, one of which is from a cute, funny, charming young guy named Alec (Miles Teller). After engaging in a quick video chat to ensure that his apartment doesn’t look like it belongs to a serial killer, Megan heads over to Alec’s place for sexy-time, which goes well enough that she winds up spending the night. The next morning, however, their pillow talk turns hostile, with Alec making some remarks that come across as slut-shaming, and Megan implying that she had a lousy time and faked her orgasms. Neither one wants to see the other again, ever… which is a bit of a problem, since they soon discover that a massive snowstorm has trapped them together in the apartment for at least the next 24 hours.
Rom-com premises don’t get much more formulaic than this, and first-time director Max Nichols (son of The Graduate director Mike Nichols) hasn’t found a distinctive way to shoot two characters trading banter in a small apartment, so it’s up to the actors to provide some interesting texture. Teller (The Spectacular Now) does his usual winning combination of sarcastic and earnest, and he matches up well with Tipton (Damsels In Distress), who finds an appealing middle ground between flakiness and flintiness. The film is at its best during a brief stretch in the middle when Megan and Alec, who have grown friendlier but are still not planning to be friends, much less date, agree to assess each other’s skill in the sack with complete frankness and candor, strictly for the benefit of the next person who comes along. Naturally, this mutual critique leads to additional hands-on experience, “for science,” though Two Night Stand is much more comfortable telling than it is showing—the film’s sole sex scene (their initial encounter happens offscreen) is as tame as its dialogue is explicit.
Had screenwriter Mark Hammer committed to the idea of two people who aren’t right for each other conducting a temporary sexual workshop—or even a temporary romantic workshop, for that matter—he might have created the template for something unique. Instead, the movie heads straight for the most predictable destination, as Megan and Alec gradually develop real feelings for each other. The requisite third-act complication arises on cue (demanding some retroactive suspension of disbelief about the décor of Alec’s apartment—big enough hint?), and the whole thing builds to a standard “you had me at hello” speech, though at least in this case, he doesn’t actually have her at hello, or even necessarily at goodbye. Seeing two idiosyncratic actors like Tipton and Teller wasted on such generic material is dispiriting. Just a little acknowledgement of the real world, especially vis-à-vis online hookups, would have been welcome.