Jenni Miller February 14, 2014
On paper, “About Last Night” sounds like a pretty bad idea. It’s a remake of the ’86 Brat Pack flick with Rob Lowe and Demi Moore, which was based on a David Mamet play called “Sexual Perversity in Chicago.” This version, directed by Steve Pink (“Hot Tub Time Machine”) and scripted by Leslye Headland, is updated for the 21st century with text messaging and jokes about cunnilingus, and dumped in theaters on Valentine’s Day.
And it’s really funny.
It’s funnier than it has any right to be, really. The patter and chemistry between stars Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, Regina Hall, and Joy Bryant keeps the narrative moving fast enough that it’s easy to overlook its flaws, but once the lights go up, it’s all sort of a blur of montages and those boring fights long-term couples have about nothing in particular.
“About Last Night” is front-loaded with manic energy; the characters’ excitement over their new relationships is as infectious and buzzy as the one-liners they toss off. The new relationship energy — both the swoony romance of Danny and Debbie and the dirty hijinks of Bernie and Joan — propels the movie forward until one relationship dissolves and the other gets serious.
Bernie (Hart) and Joan (Hall) meet at a bar and hit it off, like off, like drunken bathroom sex and charlie horses and ridiculousness that sweeps us up along with them hit-it-off. Their fights are as epic as their sex, and both make for some of the funnier scenes in the movie. Their foils are Debbie (Bryant) and Danny (Ealy), who come across as the softer, more romantic couple — you know, the ones we’re supposed to root for, even though they grow to be as tedious as they seem to find each other. Debbie is Joan’s straight-laced roommate who is dragged along to meet Bernie at a bar. Naturally, Bernie has brought his equally wary friend Danny, and despite their romantic trepidation, they fall into bed together. And here come the montages.
So many montages! The tiny rumblings of their first fights, moving in together, decorating the apartment (she loves lots of pillows! He doesn’t!), the glowy new relationship stuff, until real life seeps into their dream. It seems unnecessary to use these montages as filler; sure, adapting a play for the screen requires fleshing out and filling in, but since we’re all playing fast and loose with the source material, why not get a little creative? (Viewers who remember the ’80s will find it amusing that Debbie and Danny watch “About Last Night…” on TV and tease each other about whether it’s a chick flick or a film for guys. Can’t it be both? This version of “About Last Night” seems to be.)
Oddly enough, Danny has the lion’s share of the character development. We know his parental issues, we meet his crazy ex, we see a whole lot of his job woes; though he and Bernie are coworkers, we know a lot more about Danny’s life than we do anyone else’s. And it’s nothing too enlightening, just your typical mealy-mouthed insecurities about stacking up financially and the fears of being in a relationship with a woman who’s more together than he is.
The film halfheartedly tries to keep the story split between the two couples, but Debbie and Danny become the dominant, if less interesting, narrative. To be fair, the romantic scenes were pretty pleasing, but they were also fairly interchangeable with any other romcom. pretty people doing pretty things, being in love with each other most prettily. The camera loves Bryant and Ealy; in fact, it might love Ealy and his chiseled chest and iliac furrow the most of all.
Besides the weirdly toothless Debbie/Danny arc, there’s also a particularly cheap and tasteless joke about the gender of Joan’s new roommate. I don’t care if the characters drop C-bombs from here until next month, but taking a shot at a character about their gender identity is more along the lines of a mouth-breathing “Hangover 2”-style comedy than a zippy romcom that actually otherwise does a pretty decent job with gender.
If anyone could sharpen this source material into a truly biting commentary on love and sex in the 21st century, it would be Headland. She wrote and directed the delightfully cruel “Bachelorette,” and it’s evident that the actors in “About Last Night,” especially Hall and Hart, are having a great time with her material and with each other. I’d love to see how far out they’d all go together, but that’s not what would sell on Valentine’s Day.
SCORE: 7.0 / 10
Categories: ReviewsTags: About Last Night, Jennie Miller, Joy Bryant, Kevin hart, Michael Ealy, Regina Hall, Review