The Night We Never Met

(Warren Leight, USA, 1993)


In contemporary American cinema's never-ending attempt to revive the glory days of the romantic comedy, The Night We Never Met plunders George Stevens' The More the Merrier (1943) rather than the usual wellsprings, His Girl Friday (1940) or It Happened One Night (1934).

Like Stevens' classic, this is a tale of shared accommodation in a crowded city, spiced with a mistaken-identity premise reminiscent of Lubitsch's The Shop Around the Corner (1940).

Three people, each escaping from an uneasy domestic situation, find themselves sharing a swank apartment on different nights.

Brian (Kevin Anderson), an unlovely corporate type, is fleeing his fiancée (Justine Bateman) and indulging his "homosocial" preference. Ellen (Annabella Sciorra) is worrying about her marriage to a stick-in-the-mud husband. Sam (Matthew Broderick) wants respite from a chaotic communal household and a recently broken relationship.

Like Sleepless in Seattle (1993) this is a comedy of errors, detailing the pre-history of a perfect match that seems doomed never to begin. Debut writer-director Warren Leight greatly benefits from the contributions of a wonderful cast.

Broderick, who has floundered in poor roles since the era of Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986), is particularly funny and affecting. There are more than a few flat gags and uninteresting secondary characters, but the central plot complication maintains a steady energy.

In the tradition of clever television sitcoms such as Seinfeld and Frasier, the film milks a great many of its laughs from lifestyle jokes, harping on differences of class, taste and sophistication. There is a cruel edge of exclusion involved in this comedy. Sam and Ellen are attracted to each other partly on the basis of their tastes in food, clothes and art; they are distinguished from both the lower depths (slobs who get drunk while watching sport on television) and pretentious trendies (Jeanne Tripplehorn as Pastel the performance artist).

If you can imagine yourself fitting either of these demographics, you may not entirely enjoy The Night We Never Met.

© Adrian Martin August 1994

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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