First impressions can sway someone instantly to a positive or negative way of viewing the person or thing being experienced. Sometimes these can be proven inaccurate or dissuaded, based on further developments. This holds true for cinema, as well. The way a movie introduces its characters to the audience can speak volumes about the intentions of the filmmakers, or, at the very least, reveal what they think the audience wants. In Star Wars: A New Hope look at how Darth Vader enters the hall in a volley of laser blasts and explosions, none of it fazing him. His cold, calculated demeanor and absolute mastery of the force all there in one scene, with very little dialogue. Tim Burton’s Batman uses silhouettes creeping closer and a dramatic fall to reveal the costumed crime fighter. The rest of the movie has all the visual style, impressive lighting, and over the top action that this sequence hints at. Conversely, introductions can be awkward, but still, provide a glimpse of what is to come. Waterworld opens with Kevin Costner’s gilled Mariner filtering salt out of his urine to make it drinkable. Dumb though it is, it does set up that the ensuing film will be cheesy, one that flings everything onto the screen in hopes of being entertaining.
One Last Night, a dry, wistful romantic comedy, introduces Zoe (Rachele Schank) complaining about the date she is about to go on, solely because she and her date Alex (Luke Brandon Field) connected on a dating site. The audience literally knows nothing about her, so they have no reason to want her to go on this date that she apparently has zero interest in. For all that is gleaned about her later on, the notion that she is desperate or tired of the dating scene, this was the only avenue available never comes across, making her decision to go on the date even more baffling. All this confusion stems from just the opening credit sequence.
“…only to discover that they’ve been discussing it so long, they have been locked in the theater.”
The characterization and arc for Zoe after the weird setup is pretty charming and makes sense. Sadly, the same can’t be said for Alex. He has the exact opposite problem as Zoe. Alex’s introduction is fine enough, meeting Zoe inside the theater getting tickets to the movie. Once seated, they have a light chat about various things before the movie starts. After it is over, they stay behind to critique the film, only to discover that they’ve been discussing it so long, they have been locked in the theater. They spend the night looking for a way out and at the same time get to know each other. It eventually comes out that Alex is the owner of theater and orchestrated the lock-in because…
That ellipsis is possibly more explanation than the movie gives for his stunt. There is a line later, stated by the security guard for the theater, Escott (Brian Baumgartner), that suggests it was the trial run for a themed night out at the theater, combining an escape room style puzzle with a date/theater outing. This would lead to the patrons getting their snacks and soft drinks, clues telling how to turn the projector on, with no employees visible; the employees monitor the guests via cameras installed throughout the building. But that line is a falsehood. Alex’s half-sister, Taryn (Ali Corbin), strikes upon the idea after looking at their finances and learning Zoe is a project manager at one of the escape rooms. Both actions take place well after the lock-in date and, therefore, Alex staged his prank for absolutely no discernible reason.
“… flings everything onto the screen in hopes of being entertaining.”
Those aspects make One Last Night hard to engage with the leads, and it is just those two for most of the runtime. Clearly, characterizations aren’t writer-director Anthony Sabet’s strong suit. But as a writer, he does bring a certain sweetness to everything, so despite the frustrations of reasoning and arcs for Zoe and Alex, they do seem genuine and kind-hearted characters. Plus, for all the motivational inconsistencies, what the characters do while trapped, how things play out afterward, and everything involving Taryn, are disarmingly charming and fun. As a director, Sabet provides a laid-back atmosphere, which allows the natural chemistry between Schank and Field to flourish, so there is some return on investment for the audience.
Don’t apply even an iota of half a brain cell to the plot of One Last Night, as the plot holes are apparent from the first frame and only get more confusing the further it goes along. But, strong chemistry amongst the entire cast, impressive directing, and a big heart make for a decent one time watch.
One Last Night (2018) Directed by Anthony Sabet. Written by Anthony Sabet and Matt DeMarco. Starring Rachele Schank, Luke Brandon Field, Brian Baumgartner, Ali Corbin, Kelly Stables, Jenna Willis, Wendy Worthington. One Last Night premiered at the 2018 Santa Barbara International Film Festival.