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SXSW Review: NIGHT OWLS Charts the Course of One Amusingly Disastrous Fling

SXSW Review: NIGHT OWLS Charts the Course of One Amusingly Disastrous Fling

If you’re going to make a movie that has two characters and takes place all in one night, you better make damn sure that you hire a pair of good actors who have a decent amount of on-screen chemistry. If you fail at that basic step, it doesn’t matter how amusing the film’s premise might be — because nobody wants to spend 90 consecutive minutes with two people they can’t stand. Fortunately that’s not even remotely the case with Charles Hood’s very appealing anti-romantic comedy Night Owls.

The premise is enjoyably simple: an affable lug called Kevin (Adam Pally) finds himself embroiled in a frustrating evening that starts with a one-night stand, but quickly devolves into sort of an endless (not to mention nightmarish) first date. Not only is Madeline (Rosa Salazar) young, beautiful, and exceedingly, well, horny, but it seems that she also has a few unsettling secrets tucked away regarding Kevin’s boss, which means that after she swallows a fistful of pills, Kevin is given strict instructions to fill the gal with coffee and keep her awake all night.

And that’s basically it: a sweet but very naive guy and a caustic but justifiably angry girl have a fling, and then spend the rest of the night getting to know one another in all sorts of very personal, frequently aggressive, and highly amusing ways. Aside from a few brief scenes involving funny guys like Rob Huebel, Tony Hale, and Peter Krause, Night Owls is “The Pally & Salazar Show” all the way, which is great news because these two actors have a natural chemistry together. From the early scenes in which Madeline all but despises (and occasionally assaults) Kevin to the third-act conversations that are relatively nicer yet no less sarcastically quick-witted, the two leads are nothing short of adorable. Even when they’re being really obnoxious!

As the night drags on, we come to learn that Kevin is probably a bit too idealistic for his own good, and that Madeline is almost certainly in love with a (married) man who doesn’t feel the same way. If these plot machinations (that exist solely to keep Kevin and Madeline locked up together for one night) aren’t quite as compelling as the numerous scenes in which the two leads simply trade witty barbs back and forth, that’s a relatively minor complaint when faced with such an unexpectedly insightful and consistently amusing piece of character-based comedy.

Frankly I think Mr. Pally and Ms. Salazar display such a flawless and funny on-screen chemistry that the Night Owls producers should green-light a pair of sequels as soon as possible. It’d be like the Before Sunrise trilogy for couples who simply don’t like going outside.

Rating: 4 out of 5 bickering burritos

4 burritos

Lots more Nerdist SXSW coverage right here.

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