The Best Films of 2015

Caren Pistorius in Slow West

There’s a tendency among people who watch a lot of films to boost ones that stand out rather than ones that are good. This can lead to some perverse choices in the “best of” lists that proliferate at this time of year. So that probably explains the rogue nature of the list below – ha ha. If you’re expecting to find Spectre (not at all bad) or the latest Marvel movie or Jurassic World, look elsewhere. These are just the films, of the maybe 350 films or so that I’ve watched in the past 12 months, that jumped out and grabbed me. Some of them are 2014 releases.

Ten Best

Paddington (dir: Paul King)

Operating in Mary Poppins territory, this adaptation of Michael Bond’s books is charming, funny and clever, has jokes for kids and some more thoughtful though never intrusive observations for adults, integrates the animated bear from darkest Peru with the live action brilliantly and there’s even an action-star gag by support-playing baddie Nicole Kidman that’s aimed at ex-husband Tom Cruise.

Wild (dir: Jean-Marc Vallée)

The redemptive drama is a hard sell, but this one about a broken woman’s long trek to self-realisation works in every way. Reese Witherspoon is believably frail as the wee girl dwarfed by her huge rucksack (metaphor), director Jean-Marc Vallée uses music perfectly and does something many directors have forgotten all about – he structures his film visually, using the editing suite to full advantage. His compositional work is remarkable.

Ex Machina (dir: Alex Garland)

Just as we are realising that technology’s grip is icy, and Google might not be our friend, along comes Alex Garland’s directorial debut, a dystopian slab of hard sci-fi in which geeky Domhnall Gleeson falls for robot Alicia Vikander while hipster tech uberlord Oscar Isaac looks on. A three-hander – give or take – getting perfect performances from all concerned, and it glistens like a tiny, beautifully cut gem.

Kajaki (dir: Paul Katis)

A gaggle of British squaddies with names like Tug, Spud and Smudge wander into a minefield and suddenly their casually homophobic banter is replaced by focused professionalism and a sharp interest in staying alive. Gruesomely tense, horrific in its depiction of the damage inflicted by IEDs, is this the best British war film since Ice Cold in Alex? It’s a great war film by any standards.

It Follows (dir: David Robert Mitchell)

Sexual intercourse as an engine of death isn’t new in horror films, but It Follows finds a simple and brilliant new way of telling the story all over again – zombies who are “slow but not dumb” and might appear any time, any place, anywhere, dressed in nightwear or perhaps not very much at all. A lurchingly subjective camera, expressionistic framing and Disasterpeace’s Wendy Carlos-alike score help rack up the intensity even further.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (dir: Ana Lily Amirpour)

The Muslim jilbab as a kind of vampire’s cape – what a brilliantly observed idea that is in one of the strangest horror films of recent times, which combines something of the mass-observation aesthetic of photographer Sebastião Salgado with the disjointed cool of early Jim Jarmusch. Shot entirely in California, yet clearly a film about and for Iran, it’s a fascinating, Middle Eastern take on the Let the Right One In “innocent vampire” genre.

Slow West (dir: John Maclean)

Michael Fassbender’s astonishing run continues with this out-of-nowhere debut by John Maclean, an exquisitely wrought western making clear its debt to old pulp novels and their love of hard-tack glamour and salty danger. Tense as hell, in fact the whole film is one long, slow build towards a great finale. And it looks the business too.

Aferim! (dir: Radu Jude)

There hasn’t been a great Romanian film for about ten minutes, but here’s a slightly different sort than what we’re used to – a historical picaresque following an 1830s cop and his son as they seek to capture a Gypsy and return him to his owner, a rich boyar whose wife has been too free with her favours. Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon inspires some of the look and pace of it, and Don Quixote is clearly also a reference, though Cervantes didn’t finish on as gruesomely gripping a high as this does.

Theeb (dir: Naji Abu Nowar)

It takes a while for it to sink in, but what we have in Theeb – as we follow the exploits of the youngest son of a Bedouin tribe in the Laurence of Arabia-era desert – is a story straight out of Rider Haggard territory. It’s the sort of ripping adventure that once upon a time emboldened Spielberg and Lucas to make Indiana Jones but is done without a cocked eyebrow here, with genuine danger, tough decisions, cruel fate and a bit of socio-economic background (the collapse of the Ottoman Empire) all adding spice.

Mommy (dir: Xavier Dolan)

With Tom at the Farm it became clear that Xavier Dolan was something of a genius. Mommy is further proof, a tough drama about the stumbling relationship of a flaky mother (Anne Dorval), her aggressive, firecracker ADHD teenage son (Antoine-Olivier Pilon) and their nervous neighbour (Suzanne Clément). It wears its emotions out there on a selfie stick – “fuck off” in this film often means “I love you” – and there are at least two scenes so powerful you might have to remind yourself to breathe.

Honourable Mentions

Victoria Almeida in What's Left of Us
Victoria Almeida drives the boys crazy in What’s Left of Us


Appropriate Behaviour (dir: Desiree Akhavan)

The life and times of a second generation Iranian, or of a confused bisexual, or of a girl in the big city, or of a struggling 20something – Desiree Akhavan gets it all just right in this through-the-fingers New York comedy.

Maps to the Stars (dir: David Cronenberg)

Still Alice won her the acting accolades, but Julianne Moore is actually better in this return to nightmarishness for David Cronenberg, as a fading star and member of a family for whom the term fucked really doesn’t cover it. The Player meets Sunset Boulevard.

Life After Beth (dir: Jeff Baena)

Aubrey Plaza gives it her absolute all as a newly dead zombie trying to have a relationship with old boyfriend Dane DeHaan – who finds her a whole lot more into him than she used to be – in a genuinely inventive comedy made all the better by the presence of John C Reilly and Molly Shannon as Plaza’s concerned parents. Dead funny.

The Tribe (dir: Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy)

Shot entirely in Lithuanian sign language, acted by first-timers and set in a school for the deaf where a new boy finds that the descriptor “sex and violence” barely covers what’s going on, this film sounds like a stunt – and it obviously is to some extent – but it’s a stunt that works. And the lack of dialogue is no bar to understanding when emotion this direct and action this unambiguous is concerned.

 The Babadook (dir: Jennifer Kent)

There’s a touch of The Innocents in this highly atmospheric Aussie horror about a mother driven to desperation by her needy child. Or is it the child we need to feel worried for? Sure, it goes slack in the middle, and becomes over-focused on telling us that writer/director Jennifer Kent has seen a whole load of old horror movies, but wait for the finale – barking, scary and brilliant.

The Book of Life (dir: Jorge R Gutierrez)

A Mexican flavoured animation with a Day of the Dead theme and a plot with a distinct Orpheus and Eurydice flavour – she’s dead and he goes after her into the underworld (ish). The visuals are spaghetti western meets Ren and Stimpy, the songs are jaunty and mariachi-flavoured and the voicework (Ice Cube in particular) is exemplary.

Pictures of the Old World (dir: Dusan Hanák)

“The best Slovak film ever made”, the reputation of Dusan Hanák’s disarmingly simple documentary from the early 1970s – about the dirt poor lives of ancient peasants up in the back of beyond – is entirely deserved. “I’m going to die this year, I can feel it,” says one old timer. And that’s what it’s about – quite starkly. Death.

Two Night Stand (dir: Max Nichols)

Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Pink Panther, It Happened One Night and The Dick Van Dyke Show are all in the mix in this subversive comedy about a girl (Analeigh Tipton) who has hook-up sex with a stranger (Miles Teller) and then gets stuck in his apartment. Old-school screwball romance follows, charmingly, smartly and at speed.

Predestination (dir: Michael and Peter Spierig)

Robert Heinlein’s sci-fi story All You Zombies provides the backbone for the Spierig brothers’ follow-up to the similarly idea-crammed Daybreakers, a “guy walks into a bar” tale of a hermaphrodite (Sarah Snook) who walks into Ethan Hawke’s bar and tells him a story about time travel and the paradoxes that erupt from it. Refreshingly hard sci-fi.

Frequencies aka OXV: The Manual (dir: Darren Paul Fisher)

Strip away the romance and what is human courtship about? Status, clearly, according to this lo-fi, highly fascinating film about “what happens when a high frequency meets a low frequency” – hot, smart girl meets average guy, in other words. It’s patchily acted and a bit speechy towards the end, but there are enough ideas in this bizarre film for about 12 Hollywood blockbusters.

 Turned towards the Sun (dir: Greg Olliver)

A simple and revelatory documentary about 90-something poet and Second World War hero Micky Burn, a long-form visual version of a Daily Telegraph obituary whose power lies in the richness of Burn’s Zelig-like life. He was – just one for-instance – the guy in the secret radio room at Colditz.

What’s Left of Us aka El Desierto (dir: Christoph Behl)

A simple but powerful Argentinian zombie movie about a girl, a boy and another boy all locked up together in a house while the world goes to hell in a handcart outside. And inside, it turns out, once sexual dynamics and the fallout of a fetid love triangle start to exert themselves. Victoria Almeida is a powerful and provocative lead, the sexy counterweight to the hothouse atmosphere of death.

Tusk (dir: Kevin Smith)

Kevin Smith reminds us how good he can be with a film about a guy (Justin Long) being turned into a walrus by a demented surgeon (Michael Parks) while his much-cheated-on girlfriend (Genesis Rodriguez) searches for him. A simple film, it somehow manages to be funny and appallingly gruesome at the same time.

Face of an Angel (dir: Michael Winterbottom)

Michael Winterbottom’s drama takes the bones of the Meredith Kercher/Amanda Knox case and constructs a brilliant meditation on the modus operandi of the media, as well as a modern-day Dante and Beatrice tale in which film-maker Daniel Brühl is smitten by virginal Cara Delevingne, as anyone watching probably will be too.

While We’re Young (dir: Noah Baumbach)

Not-as-young-as-they-once-were couple Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts try to keep up with hipsters Adam Horovitz and Amanda Seyfried in a very Jewish New York comedy – smart, dry, a touch bitter – about the importance of being not just true to yourself, but of doing this absolutely and totally properly.

 White God aka Fehér Isten (dir: Kornél Mudruczó)

Kicking off with a quote by Rilke, this unique Hungarian film is like a Disney animal flick about the adventures of a mongrel, except done as existential sci-fi – what exactly would happen if dogs had the same degree of consciousness that humans have?

The Salvation (dir: Kristian Levring)

Director Kristian Levring used to be a Dogme man, but shouts “I’m so over all that now” with this remarkable western that’s like a fusion of Sergio Leone, John Ford, Sam Peckinpah and Robert Aldrich, with a perfectly cast Mads Mikkelsen as a Clint Eastwood-alike quester after vengeance. If looks could kill…

Run All Night (dir: Jaume Collet-Serra)

Another of Liam Neeson’s geri-actioners, though this time he’s back with director Jaume Collet-Serra for a deliberately retro dash for the finish in which strong, silent Neeson takes on the good guys, the bad guys and eventually the whole of New York. Hugely overwrought, entirely satisfying, it’s genre done properly.

Still the Water aka Tutatsume no mado (dir: Naomi Kawase)

If Douglas Sirk had been Japanese he might have come up with this overheated love story about teenage lovers hedging towards full penetrative sex as the waves crash, storms rage and their families conspire against them. Leisurely, beautiful, lusty and lovely, an unusual mix of the entirely natural and the gigantically metaphorical.

Phoenix (dir: Christian Petzold)

The latest of a string of dark, intelligent films that director Christian Petzold and actor Nina Hoss have made together is a revenge drama set in the aftermath of the Second World War where Hoss, just released from a death camp, is recruited by her own husband to play his dead wife – he doesn’t recognise her, obviously – and she plays along. Oh deary deary me.

 Marshland aka La Isla Mínima (dir: Alberto Rodriguez)

Stunningly good-looking policier about an ageing Franco-supporting cop and his younger more democratic sidekick investigating a murder out in the photogenic Guadalquivir marshes in 1980. Brilliantly acted and shot, with locations and music to match, it even does a car chase in an entirely new way. Did I mention how good it looks?

Little Accidents (dir: Sara Colangelo)

Old school 1970s-style humane ensemble drama with a standout Boyd Holbrook as a survivor of a terrible mining disaster whose testimony about the event at an upcoming hearing is going to decide the futures of a whole lot of people in town. An ambling drawl of a movie, with Elizabeth Banks and Jacob Lofland almost as good as Holbrook, surely a star of 2016.

 Turbo Kid (dir: François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoan-Karl Whissell)

Utterly on-the-nail pastiche of 1980s straight-to-VHS movie-making, a post-apocalyptic Total Recall meets Mad Max story of a BMX-riding kid, called Kid, gaining special powers, falling for a special girl (a special Laurence Leboeuf) and saving the world. Funny and gory, with in-jokes for nerds, and a fabulous John Carpenter-like soundtrack by Le Matos.

Mad Max: Fury Road (dir: George Miller)

Pedal-to-the-metal furious punk-funk madness, with a barely speaking Tom Hardy as Max, the road warrior on the road with badass Charlize Theron (the film’s real star) while director George Miller obsessively choreographs the relentless chase/action mayhem around them.

Tomorrowland (dir: Brad Bird)

Whatever happened to the futurism of jet packs and flying cars? Brad Bird answers the question with jaw-dropping visuals in a modern-day Wizard of Oz quest-adventure coolly received by critics with ass/elbow disassociation disorder.

Cop Car (dir: Jon Watts)

Another of those great Kevin Bacon movies he comes up with every few years, with our guy as a really bad cop on the trail of a couple of kids who have nicked his car, unaware there’s something in the boot they really don’t want to be discovering. A high-concept B movie of real distinction, lean, simple and with smart, believable dialogue, especially for the kids.

Palio (dir: Cosima Spender)

A remarkable documentary about the Palio, a horse race run in Siena, Italy, twice a year, which takes such pains to introduce us to its characters – chiefly, the young buck hoping to steal the grizzled champion’s crown – that when the race kicks off, you’re really in the medieval square with the riders.

 Minions (dir: Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin)

After the boring Despicable Me 2, who’d have thought that a spin-off – the backstory of Gru’s little yellow helpers – would have worked this well. Brilliantly animated and written, it’s a breathless, idea-packed, funny, inventive animated comedy.

I Believe in Miracles (dir: Jonny Owen)

Even if you have no interest in the 1970s, or British football, or managerial legend Brian Clough, this documentary about his astonishing success and idiosyncratic style will have you hooked. “The most charismatic man I ever met,” says one former player, part of the team of underdogs he willed to European Cup success, twice.

And if you want to watch or buy any of the films, this Amazon link will allow you to do just that – enjoy!

I am an Amazon affiliate

© Steve Morrissey 2015

23 March 2015-03-23

The Homesman


Out in the UK This Week



Winter Sleep (New Wave, cert 15)

The Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s latest thing of recalcitrant beauty is three hours long and breaks down neatly into three acts, each about an hour in length. In act one we meet Aydin, a progressive baby-boomer with a bit of money, a local luminary, a former actor, a newspaper columnist, a soft touch. Winter Sleep follows him, much in the way Michael Haneke did with Hidden, as that nice liberal carapace is pressure-tested, in Aydin’s case when the son of one of his tenants breaks his car window with a stone. Tenants? Yes, that’s how come Aydin is so comfortable, the opinions, liberal views and so on flowing from the fact that he has a big fat cushion of cash around him, though Aydin might have you believe that it’s the wealth that has flowed from the humanist philosophy, not vice versa. This is a biblical leviathan of a film, shot in Ceylan’s panoramic slow, photographic style and using the strange beehive structures of the snowy Cappadochian town of Uçhisar to strangely beautiful effect, though all of the central section of the film takes place indoors, where Aydin (a Mastroianni-like performance of addled angst by Haluk Bilginer) is psychologically filleted in scenes of Bergmann-esque excavation, turning out to be less of a nice guy than he seemed, first by his sister (Demet Akbag) and then by his wife (Melisa Sözen). Don’t expect fireworks; this is more depth charge than tracer bullets. But the scale and ambition is remarkable. At some level Ceylan is taking on the whole of western civilisation, and the winter sleep Ceylan is referring to might be an apocalyptic one.

Winter Sleep – Watch it/buy it at Amazon




Paddington (StudioCanal, cert PG)

Michael Bond’s bear from darkest Peru arrives on screen in a carefully constructed and smartly written comedy with enough depth to make it probably endlessly rewatchable. From Will Hay and Norman Wisdom through to Mr Bean and even the mighty Inbetweeners in their second film, the reliance on a physical gag and a broad wink of “it’s all just a bit of fun” insouciance has always been the bane of British comedy. But Paddington gets it entirely right – pantomime mixed in with a Mary Poppins Edwardian cosiness, a bit of zany, Hard Day’s Night imagination off the leash, as the accident-prone animated bear moves seamlessly around a live-action London of red double-deckers in the company of the entirely charming adoptive Brown family (headed by Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins as if they were David Tomlinson and Glynis Johns). Best of all, director Paul King (hitherto best known for directing TV’s The Mighty Boosh) has made sure everyone has got the memo – Nicole Kidman plays the museum owner intent on capturing Paddington as an evil Julie Andrews, Peter Capaldi, as the Browns’ busybody neighbour, is clearly doing Harry H Corbett. And if the script lays on references to immigrants being made to feel welcome a little doth-protestily, there are bijou jokes (Kidman has a little “Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible” moment) which are well judged and don’t overstay their welcome. There is a tiny gripe to be had and it’s about the boxy acoustic of Ben Whishaw’s voice as Paddington, possibly because he was recorded after Colin Firth had been dropped after filming had wrapped. It’s a minor niggle and won’t ruin this lovely and funny film, which we will all probably now continue to watch until the end of time.

Paddington – Watch it/buy it at Amazon




Two Night Stand (Signature, cert 15)

A screwball comedy with all the important action taking place in a single room, where a boy meets girl/loses girl couple trade quips and bodily fluids. That’s right, a sex comedy that’s actually about sex. It’s Generation Tinder stuff, with the second wrinkle being that it’s the girl who is pursuing boy for string-free coupling, the two of them only actually meeting cute once the deed has been done and she’s about to leave – but she’s snowed in, damnabbit, by what the delighted local weather people are calling “Apocalypse Snow”. I’ve seen some “meh” reviews for this film, but can’t for the life of me work out why the half-heartedness – it’s Miles Teller (man of the moment after Whiplash) and Analeigh Tipton (on the verge of stardom for some time), as the pair of bright, sparky and chemically believable fuck acquaintances. “Buddies” is overdoing the familiarity. The dialogue is smart, the sex is erotic though not sticky and most of all it’s about people pulled one way by the laws of attraction and the other way by the screenplay. I saw it as an updated Dick Van Dyke Show episode, only partly because Tipton has a Mary Tyler Moore mouth and zippety-zing delivery, though I don’t think Dick and Mary ever had a scene where they discussed the difficulty of achieving simultaneous orgasm. Sure, there’s a New York tendency to gabble here and there, but director Max Nichols (son of Mike, master of films built around fraught sexual relationships – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and The Graduate, for two) offers as recompense the odd deliberate moment of Breakfast at Tiffany’s throwback, Henry Mancini screwball vamp and all. So, yes, very good. “Meh” be damned.

Two Night Stand – Watch it/buy it at Amazon




The Homesman (E One, cert 15)

The Homesman is Tommy Lee Jones’s second western as director. His first one, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, was handsome looking and comprised individually powerful scenes, but it had a problem with the narrative – there wasn’t much of one – which Jones obscured by messing about with the film’s chronology. The Homesman is also a fine looking film and it also has a narrative problem. This time it’s both less and more serious. But first a bit of plot. Hilary Swank plays the pious plain Jane who volunteers to take three women driven insane by the hard pioneering life back east for some unspecified treatment; Jones is a hard-drinking rapscallion in the Lee Marvin mould whom she co-opts into helping after rescuing him from death at the end of a noose. And off they head, these two, with the three insane women and a wagon and a couple of horses, through injun country and bandit country, and so on. For all its Clint Eastwood taciturnity and straightforwardness (no jumbled chronology this time out), this is more like one of those John Wayne westerns in which the Duke puts Maureen O’Hara over his knee. Except here it’s Swank doing the spanking and Jones taking his medicine. All very fine, and it makes for an amiable, finely acted tables-turned western in the high style, the shifting seasons of New Mexico beautifully caught by the camera of Rodrigo Prieto (Amores Perros, Argo, Wolf of Wall Street). And it’s entirely satisfying right up until the final stretch, when Jones the director and co-writer allows Jones the actor the sort of finale that the film has not prepared us for. In spite of the fact it’s called The Homesman, this is clearly a film about Swank’s character, not Jones’s. And if you come away, as I did, feeling robbed because of this confusion about who is the star and who the support, Jones has to live with the fact that he’s let something approaching a classic stumble on the home stretch.

The Homesman – Watch it/buy it at Amazon




King of Escape (Peccadillo, cert 18)

A first release in Anglophone countries of Alain Guiraudie’s 2009 film, off the back of last year’s entirely successful Stranger at the Lake (one of the best films of the year). Again it’s a gay movie, and again it sits so entirely within that world that it also isn’t. Its hero, Armand (Ludovic Berthillot) is a dumpy middle-aged gay tractor salesman with an affectless demeanour matching Guiraudie’s deadpan modus operandi. After Armand rescues a pretty underage teenage girl (excellent Hafsia Herzi) from some lairy youths one night, he forms an erotic relationship with her, and encourages her to run away with him to start a new life. The running could be seen as a metaphor for a man trying to escape his sexuality, but that is to underestimate Guiraudie, who is not interested in banging the identity-politics drum. Instead he gives us a doomed, crazed comedy in which the gay element is entirely natural – scenes of men cottaging in lay-bys are neither erotic, nor exotic, nor scandalous, this is just what gay men do. And there’s a maudlin streak offsetting the more Benny Hill comedic element as Armand tries to square up to middle age, and the increasing sense that, for him, faceless sex with men at the roadside might not be enough. As with Stranger at the Lake, it’s clear from the first shot that whatever else Guiraudie is, he’s technically an artist – every frame, lens choice, angle and edit and the way these are integrated into the soundscape and soundtrack leads in one direction, towards a satisfying, quirky, soulful dramedy. The 18 certificate, in case you’re feeling squeamish, is for naked female not male flesh, by the way.

King of Escape – Watch it/buy it at Amazon




To Write Love on Her Arms (Sony, cert 15)

A real-life self-help screed about the self-harming drug-addicted Renee Yohe and how she found her way out of the dark place, and incidentally about the foundation created in her name to help those like her. Kat Dennings can do little wrong in my book, and as Yohe helps lift a film that stays too true to the young woman’s story and in the process starts to lose itself in detail – we don’t need to know that much about her old friends, really we don’t. More to the point, the film loses sight of the fact that people on drugs are boring, and that films about them are at their best when they’re “there but for the grace of god go I” rather than “behold the degradation”. Let’s say some nice stuff – Rupert Friend again proves his mettle as one of the guys trying to help her get clean, and there is a fascinating central section which almost but not quite starts dealing with the notion of the professionalisation of charity, and the negative effects of the bleeding-heart lobby on society. Then it’s back to drugs-bad/sobriety-good, and the feeling of being clobbered by a Christian tract.

To Write Love on Her Arms – Watch it/buy it at Amazon




Horrible Bosses 2 (Warner, cert 15)

Horrible Bosses 1 starred Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis as three guys who had horrible bosses. The bosses – including Jennifer Aniston as a sexaholic dentist and Kevin Spacey as a boss with an incendiary temper – were spectacularly unpleasant and were by a long way the funniest part of the film. When the bosses weren’t on, speaking scripted lines of amazing but highly amusing awfulness, the three guys indulged in largely unscripted goofing about in protracted scenes which boiled down, essentially, to one guy shouting over another. There’s plenty more of that in this sequel that busts an aorta to justify Aniston’s and Spacey’s presence this time around. Actually, it doesn’t – it’s only credibility that’s stretched, and the wages bill. So, we get to hear Aniston say “veiny cock” and “helmet” and I think at one point offering to let Bateman take a dump on her chest, or was she going to take one on his? And in the prison where he is now incarcerated, we hear Spacey’s character going on stratospheric cuss-filled rages. These bits are undeniably funny. As for the rest of it – the three guys shout over each other again and generally behave like the Three Stooges. That’s not a good thing. However, I did laugh once, heartily. It was over an exchange in the outtakes between Bateman and Sudeikis. I’m smiling about it now writing this.

Horrible Bosses 2 – Watch it/buy it at Amazon





© Steve Morrissey 2015

Two Night Stand

Analeigh Tipton and Miles Teller in Two Night Stand




Two Night Stand takes the boy wins girl/boy loses girl formula, gives it a millennial spin and then lets its stars, Miles Teller and Analeigh Tipton charm the pants off us as they rip the pants off each other.


Genuinely fresh and cute, refreshingly forthright and even sexy – most sex comedies, let’s face it, aren’t – its simple two hander story sees Tipton’s sofa-surfing slacker having rebound sex with stoner Teller, then attempting to sneak away from his place in the early hours, only to find they’re snowed in together. Which is embarrassing considering the “fuck you, too” farewells they’ve just been bidding each other.


And that’s it: a boy, a girl, a confined space and a simmering row that’s going to wheel – this, surely can’t be a spoiler – through 180 degrees over the coming 90 minutes. Ah, the 90 minute movie, remember them?


It helps enormously that the boy is Miles Teller, the stealth star who has suddenly cornered the attractive average guy market in a series of films – The Spectacular Now and Whiplash most recently. As for Analeigh Tipton, more of an unknown quantity, physically in that Emma Stone/Aubrey Plaza territory, the attractive average girl (Hollywood average being a good leap above average average – Tipton is a former model so let’s not get too disconnected from reality). She’s also got a Mary Tyler Moore coathanger mouth, something of her glass-etching whine, as well as MTM’s spitfire comic timing.


Though very little that Teller and Tipton talk about after their first and supposedly only night of sex would have made it onto any show Moore was associated with – masturbation, faking orgasm, the ideal thrusting speed to get a girl off, kind of thing. All done with a surprising innocence, because it’s honest, the characters are unusually non-aspirational (he has an impassioned mini-speech against the concept of enjoying your job) and the two actors are just so likeable. And here they are in their very own romcom, so these two actors have also clearly arrived.


Most notable about the film is the amount of agency it gives to the Tipton – it’s she who looks for a one-night stand and finds a hook-up, it’s she who’s trying to sneak away the next morning (generally a boy’s trick), it’s she who taunts Teller with his sexual inadequacies and it’s she who later calls him out when he’s giving her “googly eyes”.


It’s modern, in other words, but lean, smart, funny and touching too. You want boy to meet girl and stay with her. You’re aware that the obstructions in the way are genre obstructions but you banish that evil thought from your mind and surrender to the emotional logic of Mark Hammer’s screenplay – did I imagine it was faintly reminiscent of Breakfast at Tiffany’s? or that Hammer might also have seen Andrew Haigh’s fabulous romcom Weekend, which had a similar boiler-room premise?  If they are blueprints then Hammer has digested and then moved on, his script never bending itself into unlikely shapes to get where it’s got to go. Two Night Stand is obviously going to be a big hit and, thankfully, it looks sequel-proof. So no Two Night Stand Two.




 Two Night Stand – Buy it/watch it at Amazon





© Steve Morrissey 2015