An Oscar issue of “Entertainment Weekly” on the coffee table (from the time that “Chicago” was being hyped), a framed “Empire Strikes Back” poster, and a sizable DVD-and-videotape collection in the background is all the evidence needed: “Special Night” was made by a movie lover. It is not wrong in any way to be obsessed with film, but to make movies that mimic what has already came before, almost verbatim, is a different matter.
What Fred Miller IV finds in “Special Night” is a couple (Justin Ipock and Natalie Janssen) realizing that they have more problems in their relationship. At first, it all seems perfect, but there’s one of the old reliables, cracks on the surface that lead to deeper pains. Dave (Ipock) believes Andrea (Janssen) doesn’t go to the places he wants to go to, despite her having gone with him to a one-night-only screening of “Citizen Kane”. Andrea snaps back that despite her having a crappy day and being worn out, she went with him anyway. She could have refused him that is if he wasn’t so emotionally inert, which is why she probably went with him in the first place. Soon, both of them are at it and he wonders, as if to avoid discussion of him, where she was the past three Fridays. Clichés pile up there too. To top it off, as if to be a good follower, Miller leaves it up to us to decide who was right and who was wrong, if anyone. The usual male/female perspectives.
Besides a troubling moment or two with the camera moving around too much and not for the purpose of drama, along with awkward close-ups that feel uncomfortable rather than effective, it’s easy to spot everything you know of when it comes to fights between movie couples. Everything’s here for the picking. However, Natalie Janssen certainly doesn’t come from any other movie that can be pegged as having overly influenced this short. The serious, brunette-haired beauty actually brings fully what everything else lacks: emotion. Even as the screenplay is falling apart around the two and Ipock is simply following the path of other emotionally stunted characters, her shock at Dave, and her sadness over what’s happening is forcefully felt. If only her character had been given better words to say and better situations to participate in, something stronger for a strong actress. Other than her, “Special Night” feels like every other cliché-riddled production that tries to examine the crumbling of relationships and in turn, the souring of love.