Also with: Tim Guinee, Bradley White, Greg Germann, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, Louise Lasser, Bill Campbell, Ranjit Chowdhry, Garry Shandling, Katharine Houghton, Brooke Smith.
A quintessential New York movie, “The Night We Never Met” takes a novel premise and develops it in fits and starts. A guaranteed crowd-pleaser on its home turf, episodic effort could attract a hip audience elsewhere as well.
Debuting filmmaker Warren Leight has come up with an offbeat notion: Time-sharing a Greenwich Village apartment by days of the week (practice exists, but is hardly a trend). Hissable yuppie Kevin Anderson is behind the scheme, wanting two nights out a week with his poker-playing, football-watching buddies while living with his patrician fiancee Justine Bateman.
In on the scheme is Matthew Broderick, moping over losing his performance-artist girlfriend Pastel (Jeanne Tripplehorn, spoofing a familiar downtown type). Broderick is sharing a flat with too many noisy, vulgar roommates and needs a crash pad.
Third tenant is frustrated housewife Annabella Sciorra, who has to get away from her dense husband (Michael Mantell) and spend a couple of days a week painting.
This format allows Leight to develop some sure-fire situation comedy. The three tenants never meet but are aware of their differing habits: Anderson the boorish slob leaves a mess each time; Sciorra fixes up pretty curtains and furnishings; Broderick is a gourmet cook (he works in an upscale food store) who provides fabulous treats for Sciorra as leftovers.
Plot is set into motion when Anderson innocently switches one of his designated days with Broderick but doesn’t update the officially posted schedule. That causes Sciorra to confuse the two guys, swearing at Broderick over the phone for leaving a mess and fixing her sights on a romantic tryst with “dream guy” Anderson.
Finale has the threesome of nearly 30-year-olds finally meeting in the apartment, but not until after Sciorra has slept with Anderson and almost ruined her life.
Further complications come about (predictably) when fiancee
Bateman half-learns of the apartment and assumes Anderson is carrying on all week long in the pad.
Wonderfully atmospheric use of New York locations and familiar characters brings “Night” to life. Unfortunately, there are many scenes, particularly those of Anderson and his obnoxious pals, that kill time and detract from the romantic leads. Ultimately it’s not really an ensemble piece but closer to a film with alternating casts or vignettes.
Broderick, making a notable screen comeback after his laughless “Out on a Limb” fiasco, is utterly convincing as the hapless hero. Sciorra immediately grabs the viewer’s sympathy, giving the film some heart and depth beyond the surface yocks.
Third lead Anderson throws himself wholeheartedly into his stereotyped assignment, while Leight’s script offers him not a single redeeming feature.
Garry Shandling pops up uncredited as a wiseguy patient of dental hygienist Sciorra, while Christine Baranski is perfect as Sciorra’s best friend and sounding board. Best cameo among familiar faces (ranging from supermodel Naomi Campbell to Katharine Hepburn’s niece Katharine Houghton) is Ranjit Chowdhry as a hilarious taxi driver.
Lensing by John Thomas (who photographed another Gotham pic, “Metropolitan”) is sharp and Evan Lurie’s sprightly score is a definite asset.