Directed by Charles Hood. Produced by Tobias Louie, Seth Goldsmith, and Charles Hood. Written by Seth Goldsmith and Charles Hood. Release date: December 4, 2015.
When we get a movie as honest and interesting as Night Owls, it’s time to celebrate. Here is a film that could easily have been a play – and likely should be made into one – that features little more than two actors talking – with light comedic slapstick – that is insightful, cutting, hilarious, emotionally impactful, and so very much worth the 90-minute investment that comes from watching it. It’s set primarily in one location, focuses on just two actors, and yet it works so well that it’s something you want to revisit almost as soon as it ends.
The basic setup is preposterous, it’s true, but it ultimately doesn’t hinder the movie. A guy, Kevin (Adam Pally), and a girl, Madeline (Rosa Salazar), have a one-night stand at “her” house. Afterward, Kevin finds out that he is, instead, in the house of his boss, a revered college football coach, and that Madeline is the coach’s mistress (he’s also married). Madeline then decides to down a bottle of Xanax. Kevin phones the assistant coach for help and is told to ensure that Madeline stays awake and alive until the next morning. So, Kevin has to keep Madeline, who at this point is none too pleased to even still be alive, awake for the next 12 or so hours.
Simple, right? The film goes through this sequence so effortlessly that it’s only when you take a step back that you realize how ridiculous it is. While we’re watching Night Owls, all we need to understand is this is a way to get these characters to do things together. Seemingly boring things, like talking, playing darts, talking, fighting, talking, and probably some more talking. Much of the film follows Kevin and Madeline as they talk, often with a heavy dose of sarcasm mixed in. They learn things about each other while fighting off multiple preconceptions, discover things about themselves, and maybe, just maybe, begin to not hate one another.
This is the type of movie that excites me and reminds me that good comedies do exist. Sometimes you just have to look harder to find them.
The biting dialogue – which is raw, hurtful, and insightful – is delivered by actors with such amazing chemistry that you can only imagine they were born to play these characters and is so good that almost every line is revelatory or hilarious – or both. It’s delivered at a rapid-fire rate, with timing so good that it makes the comedy effective, and the back-and-forth between these actors will keep you involved from start to finish.
Adam Pally isn’t an actor you’ve seen in many films, although he’s been successful on TV. Rosa Salazar has been in some bigger movies – the young adult sequels Insurgent and The Scorch Trials – but, like Pally, isn’t anywhere close to a household name. Both actors should be incredibly proud of the work they put in here. They instantly make themselves actors to watch in independent cinema, and it’s almost impossible to come out of Night Owls not hoping that they’ll get to work together again. When chemistry looks this easy and is so great, it’s a magical thing.
It’s not all dialogue, though. There are several scenes that are fun not because of the dialogue, but because of something physical that’s going on – and then they’re enhanced by a witty line or a clever insult. Night Owls has a slapstick sense of humor at times. Take the scene involving a treadmill, or the one involving mace – and its aftermath. There are just so many good moments to be found in this film, and you need to see it to truly “get” why they work. It’s kind of like Richard Linklater’s Before series in a lot of ways, but unlike Before We Go doesn’t try to copy the Before movies and instead goes in its own direction.
Night Owls is a true gem of a movie. With a fantastic script – with a ridiculous setup – tremendous actors who have amazing chemistry with one another, interesting characters, insightful, honest and witty dialogue, multiple instances of slapstick comedy, and a pretty great use of a single location, it’s a funny, smart, emotionally strong, and truthful film. Adam Pally and Rosa Salazar become instant independent film stars, director Charles Hood turns into a director to keep an eye out for, and we’ve got a pretty great movie in Night Owls. This is the type of movie that excites me and reminds me that good comedies do exist. Sometimes you just have to look harder to find them.
Bottom Line: Night Owls overcomes its silly setup to become a funny, insightful, and honest movie with great characters, dialogue, and acting.
Recommendation: If you want a play-style movie with some of the best chemistry you can see this year, combined with some solid slapstick and witty dialogue, check out Night Owls.[rating=4]