About Last Night (A PopEntertainment.com Movie Review)
Updated: Jun 15
About Last Night
ABOUT LAST NIGHT (2014)
Starring Michael Ealy, Joy Bryant, Kevin Hart, Regina Hall, Chris McDonald, Adam Rodriguez, Joe Lo Truglio, Paula Patton, Catherine Shu, David Greenman, Bryan Callen, Paul Quinn, Hailey Boyle, Hailey Boyle and Terrell Owens.
Screenplay by Leslye Headland.
Directed by Steve Pink.
Distributed by Screen Gems. 100 minutes. Rated R.
This movie is kind of a rarity in the new Hollywood. There is a worldview that it is good business to reboot half-forgotten old projects for a new generation. The normal process is to take a good (or not so good) old title and create a slick but empty imitation of the original. About Last Night, on the other hand, takes a fairly good but flawed original (which had the elliptically slightly different title About Last Night…) and figures out how to improve it.
The original 1986 film (starring Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, Jim Belushi and Elizabeth Perkins) was loosely based on David Mamet’s acclaimed 1974 play Sexual Perversity in Chicago. Extremely loosely based: the first movie scene used the opening dialogue from the play pretty much verbatim, but from then on the screenplay had almost nothing to do with the source material. In fact, the smart and snappy wordplay of that opening scene is the main thing that anyone remembers about the original, and none of the dialogue which followed up was close to being as sharp or savvy as that first salvo.
However, About Last Night… was a fairly intriguing if slightly sappy look at love relationships in the me decade. It took a look at a couple who fall into an one-night stand before realizing there are deeper feelings lurking, which leads to a tempestuous on-again off-again relationship over months. The film will forever merit credit (or blame) for turning Jim Belushi into a star with his supporting role as the hornball best friend.
The new version obviously greatly respects the original film. In fact, there is a brief scene of the new leads snuggling in bed watching Lowe and Moore in the first. They pledge their love to the movie, while having a mild disagreement as to whether or not it was a chick flick.
Still, the new About Last Night changes things up significantly, and not just in the fact that most of the new cast is black.
Last year I spoke with actor Christopher McDonald and we discussed the then in-the-works film. “It’s the African American version,” McDonald explained. “I’m the token white guy in this thing. But it is funny. The stuff that I saw, I’ll tell you the actors are just knocking it out of the park. They are going for the high sex, you can get a little bit more graphic with that nowadays. Kevin Hart is a very funny guy. Oh my God is he funny. And the girls are gorgeous. It’s going to come out on Valentine’s Day and I think it’s going to be making a lot of noise. It’s pretty true to the movie and I think they also had the play around, too. It’s really nicely directed by Steve Pink. It’s all good.”
While the original film was actually fairly sexually graphic for its time as well, otherwise McDonald was pretty on point with his analysis.
Director Pink, John Cusack's long-time partner (he co-wrote Grosse Point Blank and High Fidelity and directed Hot Tub Time Machine), gives the movie a smart, light, glossy and accessible sheen. Pink and screenwriter Leslye Headland also set their sights more on the original film than the play (though the credits again say it was based on Sexual Perversity in Chicago), but they change the plot up enough to keep things crackling.
Danny (Michael Ealy) and Debbie (Joy Bryant) are two attractive but gun shy LA singles who are smart and funny, but also a little shy. They meet when their best friends start dating, the much more wild and boisterous Bernie (Kevin Hart, continuing his run as the hardest working man in show biz) and Joan (Regina Hall). Bernie and Joan have a full on hate/hate relationship, but their animosity somehow turns them on. They become the cynical Greek chorus who watch Danny and Debbie's halting steps towards intimacy incredulously.
About Last Night is more gleefully profane than its predecessor (which was no slouch in the dirty talk itself), but it also makes the characters more relatable, their foibles and problems more universal.
By strange coincidence, About Last Night is one of three 80s franchises to be updated for this Valentine's Day weekend (the other two are Endless Love... and, oddly enough, Robocop.) It is by far the best of these reboots. In fact, About Last Night would be pretty terrific even if you've never heard of the original film or the play it was based upon. Finally, a film reboot that gets it right.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2014 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: February 14, 2014.
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