Night Owls: A Jaded Rom-Com That Makes Football Mildly Interesting

When it comes to the execution of the one-night stand movie, a lot of things can go wrong–mainly because it’s such a cliched topic. But with Charles Hood’s second feature since the little remembered 2007 film Freezer Burn, the plot is given a breath of fresh air with its approach and single location script. As the scene opens on Madeline (Rosa Salazar, a dead ringer for Aubrey Plaza during the initial moments) leading her prey for the night, Kevin (Adam Pally), to what we assume is her house, things get interesting after they have sex rather than the usual cliche of audience interest being piqued during “the hunt” that typically occurs beforehand.

When Kevin is about to leave the premises so that he isn’t remiss in his “work duties” the next day, he suddenly notices a familiar face in a family portrait–that of his boss, Will Campbell (Peter Krause). Panicked he calls, for all intents and purposes, Will’s “handler,” Peter (Rob Huebel), to advise on the bizarre situation. Peter then gives him the story of how Madeline was a one-time mistake of Will’s that became obsessed with him in a psychotic manner. He also instructs Kevin to find Madeline immediately, as she’s probably done something drastic–in this case, popping an entire bottle’s worth of Xanax.

Kevin discovers her in the bathroom upstairs once Peter assures him that “the team’s” doctor–a foot doctor–Newman (Tony Hale, always Buster-ing it up) is going to be there shortly to help. In the meantime, Peter has given Kevin the unnecessary advice of forcing Madeline to barf up whatever’s inside of her. Dr. Newman later tells him that this wasn’t necessary as her system has already absorbed everything anyway. Still, it’s yet another way for Madeline to bond in a rapid manner with Kevin, who is given the task of keeping her awake all night now that her stomach has been pumped.

The unpleasant job is punctuated with physical and verbal violence on the part of Madeline, who wants nothing more than to leave the house and never think about Will again–a giant facade of a married man who she was with for three years, not the folly-laden flash in the pan Peter made her out to be. But to Kevin, a mere video assistant for the Allen State University football team in the small, unincorporated town of Allen, California, Will is a god, unimpeachable in every way.

As Kevin and Madeline begin to talk about everything from socioeconomic background (Madeline claims that Kevin is just another rich townie) to how many sexual partners they’ve had (she 19, he 5), Kevin begins to actually trust what she says about Will, gradually allowing his illusions about someone he refers to as his mentor–even though they’ve probably only spoken a handful of times–to be broken down. But it is with great reluctance that he accepts the piece of information given to him by her about Will’s giant payoff to one of the school’s most prized athletes.

With Will holding some sort of Svengali-like power over both of them, it’s ironic that the two should end up stuck with one another for the night, as they’re the only beings capable of breaking the spell on the other that Will has over them. And so, Hood has done something that no other writer-director before him could do: bring romance and wit to a film that heavily alludes to football.