Making impressions in a series of film starting with the well-observed youth drama “The Spectacular Now” and buddy comedies such as “That Awkward Moment” and “21 and Over,” he will hit pay dirt next month with Sundance sensation “Whiplash,” a truly intense performance in a truly intense film.
But as a kind of warm-up for that release, this month he is on screen in a minor comedy called “Two Night Stand.” While this is a modest film, it does showcase the talent that has made movie-goers and critics, not to mention producers and directors, such enthusiastic supporters of the young actor.
Trying to make an asset out of limited budget, the movie has a blizzard trap a young woman and man inside a cramped Brooklyn apartment, thus limiting the move mostly to a single set. Flashbacks and further developments do expand the movie beyond the apartment to other apartments, bars and a police station in Manhattan.
Otherwise this is a two-character study, reminiscent of such plays as Terrence McNally’s “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune” or the much edgier, more feral John Patrick Shanley play, “Danny and the Deep Blue Sea.”
The film positions its characters, Alec (Teller) and Megan (Analeigh Tipton), in the aftermath of a one-night stand. The apartment is his and they met online.
The one-nighter is a first for each if what they say can be believed. Clearly, the confinement will force the two strangers to get to know each other in ways ignored during the quick and frantic shag of the night before.
Screenwriter Mark Hammer, making his feature debut, creates a few moments with smart dialogue and inspired comedy but many more with unimaginative, tired plotting. Neither character has what it takes to engage an audience.
The direction by Max Nichols, also making his feature debut — and, yes, he is the son of Mike — is competent within the confined space. Perhaps the film’s best sustained sequence of comic invention comes when the two strangers give one another tips on how to become a better lover — this based on certain mistakes from the preceding night.
Teller gives Alec an appealing earnestness coupled with a sometimes easily bruised ego that makes the character appealing. Tipton is pert, vulnerable and funny in spots so the two do manage to create a lively chemistry that causes you to root for their hook-up to extend beyond two nights.
Even at a short 86 minutes though, the movie feels like it has ended before it actually does. Perhaps it was a mistake for the filmmakers ever to leave that Brooklyn apartment.
All other characters who drop into the movie feel forced without sufficient back stories or characters. Michael Showalter parodies a typical breathless TV weather man, who is seen from time to time on Alec’s TV screen giving updates on the ferocious storm that has confined the reluctant duo.
Cinematographer Bobby Bukowski manages to keep the angles and framing within that claustrophobic space interesting while editor Matt Garner cuts the film with a snappy rhythm to keep tedium at bay.
Ultimately, it’s the story itself that falls down.
Opens: September 26, 2014 (eOne Films)
Production companies: Demarest Films presents in association with the Solution Entertainment Group a Flynn Picture Co./Claudeismydog/Demarest Fimls production
Cast: Miles Teller, Analeigh Tipton, Jessica Szohr, Scott Mescudi, Michael Showalter
Director: Max Nichols
Screenwriter: Mark Hammer
Producers: Beau Flynn, Ruben Fleischer, Sam Englebardt, William D. Johnson
Executive producers: Adam Yoelin, Mark Hammer, David Greathouse, Lauren Selig
Director of photography: Bobby Bukowski
Production designer: Molly Hughes
Music: The De Luca Brothers
Costume designer: Amy Roth
Editor: Matt Garner
R rating, 86 minutes