One Night Stand

I was, as my long-time readers may remember, inclined to give Leaving Las
the benefit of a very considerable doubt that it was not, as it seemed
to be, about insane self-indulgence but, like Kiss or Kill, about the
intersection of love and trust. One Night Stand, the latest from that
film’s director, Mike Figgis, suggests
that I was wrong.

Wesley Snipes plays Max, a successful and happily married director of
commercials from the west coast who is visiting New York on business. To the
camera he tells us story of his best friend, Charlie (Robert Downey Jr.), a gay
choreographer in New York who has recently come down with AIDS. The two of them
had a falling out five years ago, but now Max wants to bury the hatchet. This
they manage to do in a scene of renewed but somewhat strained camaraderie. Max
shows Charlie the pictures of his attractive wife Mimi (Ming Na Wen) and kids.
As Max is on his way out of town, however, he meets a strange woman called Karen
(Nastassja Kinski) and is thrown together with her through an amazing series of
coincidences that begins to seem to both of them like the hand of fate.

They enjoy the eponymous one-night stand, and Max returns to the delectable
Mimi, thinking that he can leave the events of the night behind him. Not too
surprisingly, he cannot. He becomes a lovesick puppy. His work suffers. His
marriage suffers. His family suffers. At last he is called back to New York
because Charlie is dying. He joins a tight circle of
Charlie’s close friends and family in
his final days only to discover—would you believe it?—that Karen is
Charlie’s sister-in-law, married to
his handsome and personable brother Vern (Kyle MacLachlan). He and Mimi and Vern
and Karen have sushi together. Once again, it seems like Kismet. Max and Karen
can hardly keep their hands off each other, Meanwhile the dying Charlie is
selling all the friends and family on his philosophy of life, which is basically
that of the old Schlitz beer commercial: You only go around once in life, so
grab for all the gusto you can.

Guess what happens? At the party which follows
Charlie’s memorial service, Max sees
an apparition of his dead friend: “You
still don’t look happy, Max. Do
something.” He does something. More
surprisingly, Vern and Mimi do something too. The final
scene—” One Year
Later”—shows the four of them
once again having sushi at the same restaurant in Manhattan. The camera lingers
absurdly overlong on the four of them just as the two couples are about to
separate—as if you couldn’t see
the “surprise
ending” coming a mile off. Sure
enough, what looked like fate was fate. True love triumphs over mere
social convention, and there is a happy ending for everyone—except, of
course, the kids.

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