Talented Broderick is bright spot among renters in 'The Night' Film has story line only New Yorkers could love

May 01, 1993|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Film Critic

"The Night We Never Met" is yet another New York apartment-rental comedy. Alas, it won't play for you at all if you live in that great Gobi that stretches from the Hudson westward, northward and southward.

The piece has to do with an exquisite rent-controlled apartment in Greenwich Village -- exquisite, that is, by New York standards. To me it was strictly a case of ONE RM, NO VU, DIRTY, UNSAFE, REALLY EXPENSIVE.

Anyway, it is rented by a moronic young stockbroker (Kevin Anderson) who essentially uses it as a sin crib. When his marriage approaches, he cannot bear to give it up; but he can't afford it either. So he sublets on a time-share basis, so that two other desperate people occupy it two nights a week. Does this make any sense at all off the island of Manhattan?

The other two are a frustrated married dental hygienist with artistic ambitions (Annabella Sciorra) and a upscale delicatessen clerk who's been unlucky in love (Matthew Broderick). Clearly the two of them were meant for each other as they begin leaving notes and used food for each other. (Unbelievable plot device No. 1: Would you eat a stranger's leftovers?) The wrinkle that sets the plot in action (finally) is a change in scheduling that convinces Sciorra that it's Anderson who's the gentle soul; she gives herself adulterously to him one evening and he proves himself even more piggish than the entire product line at Parks Sausage.

Written and directed by Warren Leight, "The Night We Never Met" veers unevenly between farce and soap opera. Its main problem is lack of speed; the central device is clumsy, takes too long to set up and too long to begin paying comic dividends. And there's one terrible bit of miscasting: Jeanne Tripplehorn, who was the police psychologist in "Fatal Attraction," plays Broderick's ex-girlfriend, a French "performance artist," but you could have fooled me.

The others are fine. Anderson, who has played any number of sensitive men (he was the sensitive "good guy" in "Sleeping With the Enemy," has a nice, gross turn as the man built from pig parts and now and then Leight will cut from Sciorra rhapsodizing about his refinement to a shot of him gurgling beer in his underwear with his pals that's definitely funny.

As for Broderick, he's always had a fey ironic quality that will probably keep him from ever becoming a real movie star, but he's disarming and pleasant and the best thing in the movie.

MOVIE REVIEW

"The Night We Never Met"

Starring Annabella Sciorra and Matthew Broderick

Directed by Warren Leight

Released by Miramax

Rated R

** 1/2

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