Reviews - Major Releases


Film Review: About Last Night

A question of sheer ballsy attitude over true comic substance, this raunchy remake does the job. Sort of. 

Feb 14, 2014

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1394168-About_Last_Night_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

About Last Night is a remake of the 1986 Edward Zwick film, which was adapted from the 1974 David Mamet play Sexual Perversity in Chicago, one of the early works that made that writer's name for its abrasively raw language and look at modern relationships. The original film softened its punch to make for more "palatable" rom-com fare for the likes of Demi Moore, Rob Lowe, Jim Belushi and Elizabeth Perkins. The remake takes equal liberty with the source material, but such are changing times, screenwriter Leslye Headland ( Bachelorette) and director Steve Pink ( Hot Tub Time Machine) have upped the raunch factor, remolding it to better fit its African-American cast.

The film focuses on two couples, who are respectively nice and nasty. The nice is represented by Danny (Michael Ealy) and Debbie (Joy Bryant), both sweet, low-key and skittish about romance, while Bernie (Kevin Hart) and Joan (Regina Hall) enjoy an eternally combustible and combative relationship that is more “evil friends with benefits.” As Danny and Debbie become serious and move in together, the other two look askance at their bond and, munching some seriously sour grapes, are somewhat less than wholly supportive.

As if to match Headland's breathless, often piquantly obscene dialogue, Pink whips things along and the initial impression here is one of bracing comic verve. The actors speak so fast, often throwing away their lines, that unless you are maybe in your 20s and accustomed to such conversational rat-a-tat, you miss many of them. Better that than sluggishness, however, and there are some juicy doozies in the lot, as when Joan dismisses Bernie's new girlfriend with "If the bitch was any dumber, I'd have to water her," and later, "You are making a brief cameo in a very tragic porno." Headland's work is highly variable, however, and the laughs elicited range from genuine to forced, as the basic thinness of the material—a short one-act play stretched to feature length—becomes more and more apparent.

Also contributing to this impression are the male leads. Ealy has pretty baby blues, but an essential dull blandness which comes through even when he is impersonating Ike Turner at a Halloween party, while the diminutive, manic and now ubiquitous Hart is here more frenetic than genuinely funny. Already called today’s "hardest working man in show biz," he does just that, and the camera registers all too accurately his eager-beaver attempts to will his lewd but often trite antics into sidesplitting hilarity. 
 
The women fare a lot better. Bryant is delectably pretty and does what she can to instill some humanity into the raucous proceedings, while Hall has herself a field day, sinking her chops into every infuriated, embittered and louche opportunity. She's a seethingly good match for Hart's incessant mania, and earns her laughs more suavely, although she is made to don a chicken head at one point for a clucking, over-the-top sex scene—but she even makes that funny. Christopher McDonald lends attractive, jovial support as the boys' favorite barkeep, while Paula Patton makes a brief but gorgeous appearance as Danny's troublesome ex.

Happily, the technical aspects really sparkle. Michael Barrett's cinematography gleams, making Los Angeles in every season almost as appealing as a Woody Allen Manhattan, and showcasing Danny's dream bachelor pad of a loft. Pink also owes his editors Tracey Wadmore-Smith and Shelly Westerman an enormous debt: Their dazzlingly on-point work often lends a comic rhythm which I suspect may not have always been evident on the script pages.


Film Review: About Last Night

A question of sheer ballsy attitude over true comic substance, this raunchy remake does the job. Sort of. 

Feb 14, 2014

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1394168-About_Last_Night_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

About Last Night is a remake of the 1986 Edward Zwick film, which was adapted from the 1974 David Mamet play Sexual Perversity in Chicago, one of the early works that made that writer's name for its abrasively raw language and look at modern relationships. The original film softened its punch to make for more "palatable" rom-com fare for the likes of Demi Moore, Rob Lowe, Jim Belushi and Elizabeth Perkins. The remake takes equal liberty with the source material, but such are changing times, screenwriter Leslye Headland (Bachelorette) and director Steve Pink (Hot Tub Time Machine) have upped the raunch factor, remolding it to better fit its African-American cast.

The film focuses on two couples, who are respectively nice and nasty. The nice is represented by Danny (Michael Ealy) and Debbie (Joy Bryant), both sweet, low-key and skittish about romance, while Bernie (Kevin Hart) and Joan (Regina Hall) enjoy an eternally combustible and combative relationship that is more “evil friends with benefits.” As Danny and Debbie become serious and move in together, the other two look askance at their bond and, munching some seriously sour grapes, are somewhat less than wholly supportive.

As if to match Headland's breathless, often piquantly obscene dialogue, Pink whips things along and the initial impression here is one of bracing comic verve. The actors speak so fast, often throwing away their lines, that unless you are maybe in your 20s and accustomed to such conversational rat-a-tat, you miss many of them. Better that than sluggishness, however, and there are some juicy doozies in the lot, as when Joan dismisses Bernie's new girlfriend with "If the bitch was any dumber, I'd have to water her," and later, "You are making a brief cameo in a very tragic porno." Headland's work is highly variable, however, and the laughs elicited range from genuine to forced, as the basic thinness of the material—a short one-act play stretched to feature length—becomes more and more apparent.

Also contributing to this impression are the male leads. Ealy has pretty baby blues, but an essential dull blandness which comes through even when he is impersonating Ike Turner at a Halloween party, while the diminutive, manic and now ubiquitous Hart is here more frenetic than genuinely funny. Already called today’s "hardest working man in show biz," he does just that, and the camera registers all too accurately his eager-beaver attempts to will his lewd but often trite antics into sidesplitting hilarity. 
 
The women fare a lot better. Bryant is delectably pretty and does what she can to instill some humanity into the raucous proceedings, while Hall has herself a field day, sinking her chops into every infuriated, embittered and louche opportunity. She's a seethingly good match for Hart's incessant mania, and earns her laughs more suavely, although she is made to don a chicken head at one point for a clucking, over-the-top sex scene—but she even makes that funny. Christopher McDonald lends attractive, jovial support as the boys' favorite barkeep, while Paula Patton makes a brief but gorgeous appearance as Danny's troublesome ex.

Happily, the technical aspects really sparkle. Michael Barrett's cinematography gleams, making Los Angeles in every season almost as appealing as a Woody Allen Manhattan, and showcasing Danny's dream bachelor pad of a loft. Pink also owes his editors Tracey Wadmore-Smith and Shelly Westerman an enormous debt: Their dazzlingly on-point work often lends a comic rhythm which I suspect may not have always been evident on the script pages.
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