Night Owls (2015)

‘A one-night stand gone awry’ would be a fitting logline for writer-director Charles Hood’s sophomore feature Night Owls. Sure, it may sound like one of those overly generic rom coms that’s currently floating around the streaming services, but winning performances, excellent writing, and effective use of its single location make this one of the better low budget flicks I’ve seen of late.

The story follows nice guy Kevin (Adam Pally), a dedicated low-ranking assistant who works for the Allen State football team and hooks up with a hot mess of a bartender named Madeline (Rosa Salazar) at a banquet. Dumbfounded that such a beautiful woman is showing any interest in him, Kevin winds up ditching the party and going to her crib for a frisky one-night stand. Within minutes they’re drinking vintage wine that’s clearly above her paygrade, and Kevin begins to sense that things aren’t quite right.

‘… I’m not sure if I’m hungover, dead, or just hungry.’

He eventually realizes it’s not her house that they’re shacking up in but the home of Kevin’s idol and boss, Allen State head coach Will Campbell (Peter Krause), who’s out of town prepping for a big game. Kevin also discovers Madeline’s passed out body on the bathroom floor due to an overdose of Xanax. Panicked and destressed, he phones his supervisor Peter (Rob Huebel) for help and quickly finds out that Madeline is, in fact, Will’s ex-mistress. Peter gives Kevin simple instructions: keep her conscious and inside the house until morning, long enough for his bosses to come in and clean up the situation without creating a scandal.

From here, Hood and his co-writer Seth Goldsmith inject the film with some physical slap-stick comedy. Kevin knocks Madeline’s lanky body around as he tries to get her to spew out the drugs she’s swallowed, before tossing her in the shower in an effort to keep her from dozing off. When Madeline does start to sober up, however, she gets to dish out her own payback, doing whatever she can to flee the property, smacking Kevin about, and even attacking him with pepper spray. While none of this stuff is laugh-out-loud funny, it’s amusing, feels natural, and most importantly, serves the narrative.

Smoking chills

Before long, the pair settle down, and the film takes a somewhat sentimental turn as Kevin and Madeline begin to reveal more about their pasts and lives — they chat about everything from their socioeconomic backgrounds to how many sexual partners they’ve had. As Kevin starts to trust Madeline and fall for her fire-cracker charms and her for his wholesome guy-next-door goofiness, he gets her to reflect on her own relationship with Will, and where that’s going, while she tries to get Kevin to open up his eyes about worshiping his boss. While Kevin and Madeline’s scenarios may be quite specific, the movie deals with universal issues that almost anyone can relate to/ connect with, which makes this journey feel more personal. Although the majority of the flick takes place in mostly a single location, filmmaker Hood does a commendable job in keeping the proceedings exciting, with the twosome mucking about throughout the night, doing things such as taking a dip in the pool, playing darts, and cooking up a greasy midnight snack.

It helps that both Adam Pally, Sonic the Hedgehog (2020), and Rosa Salazar, Alita: Battle Angel (2019), are excellent in their roles and share palpable on-screen energy, their delivery, body language and comic timing all spot on. Furthermore, the duo’s conversations are engaging with each able to navigate the script’s various tonal shifts seamlessly. In truth, nothing would have worked if I didn’t warm to the leads, but Pally and Salazar really do elevate the film, so much so that I legitimately began to care about their characters — I hoped that they’d say the right things, and felt frustrated, even disappointed when they didn’t as I genuinely wanted things to work out for both of ‘em. Oh, it’s also worth mentioning that Arrested Development’s Tony Hale pops up briefly as the team’s doctor, who’s called in to check up on Madeline when she’s discovered unconscious and advises Kevin to keep her up till morning.

‘I will never be a morning person.’

Without giving too much away, I felt that the last act of the film does let it down ever so slightly, as the resolution is a bit too vague for my liking — mainly because I wanted to get some sort of closure for these characters whom I had become rather close with. Irrespective, Night Owls is an charming little two-hander that’s worth your time — it’s amusing, well-acted and constructed, and leaves viewers with something substantial to reflect on once it’s all over. Most of us have time up our sleeves at the moment, and I’d defiantly recommend this one, chiefly as a late-night treat for those night owls out there.

4 / 5 – Recommended

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

Night Owls is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video