“The Night of the White Pants” is predominantly that: the tale of a single life-changing evening in the life of the Hagen family. Patriarch Max Hagen (Wilkinson) is a Dallas Fortune 500 CEO that is on the downside of an exceptional life (and in the early, ugly stages of another divorce). Max lives with his special needs sister Lolly (Jewell) and his live-at-home, drug addict son Millian (Kranz). Max’s daughter Beth (Blair) is the only one in the family who seems to have her s**t together, and she plans a dinner so that she can introduce her boyfriend, Raff (Stahl), to the family.
Of course, nothing goes as planned. The meal goes south as soon as Millian recognizes Raff as his pot dealer (a occupational fact about her boyfriend that Beth was unaware of), and then the police show up with Max’s ex-wife to throw Max out of the house. Beth storms out on both Max and Raff, and the two find themselves reluctantly in each other’s company for the rest of the evening. An evening, for Max, that involves punk rock, breaking and entering, a little bit of cocaine and a dalliance with a young punk rock woman.
I had my misgivings at first, particularly upon hearing Tom Wilkinson’s Texas drawl, but the man continues to do no wrong. While the film involves quite a few other characters, it is Wilkinson’s Max that carries the day, and he does so brilliantly. As a washed-up Fortune 500 CEO, Max is almost what you would imagine another one of Wilkinson’s memorable characters, Arthur Edens from “Michael Clayton,” was like prior to going completely off the mental rails. While Max’s evening does smack of a mid-life crisis, considering he is well beyond that age and reluctantly thrown into the situation makes it seem more like a late-life intervention.
“The Night of the White Pants” is a simple tale, told at an even, comfortable pace. There are no true revelations to be had, and there’s no telling whether anyone really learns and grows from the adventure, but that’s what makes it so relate-able. Sure, not all of us are CEOs that have fallen from grace, but more than one or two of us have dysfunctional families (and my guess is the ones that say they don’t are in denial about it anyway) or have found ourselves on the downswing of a previously up pendulum. That’s just life, and “The Night of the White Pants” captures it wonderfully.