On a quick trip from Los Angeles to Manhattan, married Max Carlyle (Wesley Snipes), a director of commercials, meets married Karen (Nastassja Kinski). For one night they forget their obligations. Then it’s over.
Except, of course, it isn’t. For writer and director Mike Figgis, that one-night stand sets off an emotional chain reaction. Max feels estranged from his wife, Mimi (Ming-Na Wen). He and Karen meet a year later at the hospital bed of Max’s HIV-positive pal Charlie (a superb Robert Downey Jr.). Karen is married to Charlie’s brother Vernon (Kyle MacLachlan). As Charlie’s life fades, Max and Karen renew their affair.
Like the jazz score he composed for the film, Figgis weaves around these interlocking relationships with insinuating skill, drawing fine performances, especially from Snipes, who won the Best Actor prize at the Venice Film Festival. Yet the film is ultimately unsatisfying. Figgis is trying to deal with betrayal without dishing out blame, but in reworking a script, originally written by Joe Eszterhas (Showgirls), he hasn’t escaped the pitfalls of sentimentality and contrivance. One Night Stand joins Mr. Jones as a misstep for the maverick director of Leaving Las Vegas, Stormy Monday and Internal Affairs. Still, I’ll take a Figgis slip any day over a hit from a hired hand.