About Last Night (2014) / Romance-Comedy
MPAA Rated: R for sexual content, language and brief drug use
Running Time: 100 min.
Cast: Michael Ealy, Kevin Hart, Regina Hall, Joy Bryant, Christopher McDonald, Paula Patton, Adam Rodriguez, Joe Lo Truglio
Cameo: Terrell Owens
Director: Steve Pink
Screenplay: Leslye Headland (Based on the 1986 screenplay by Tim Kazurinsky and Denise DeClue. Originally based on the play, "Sexual Perversity in Chicago" by David Mamet)
Review published February 14, 2014
About Last Night is a remake of a quaint but mostly forgotten romantic comedy-drama from 1986, which itself is a loose interpretation of a David Mamet stage play from the 1970s, "Sexual Perversity in Chicago". This one changes its setting to Los Angeles and changes the make-up of the cast from Caucasian to African-American, though the way Leslye Headland's (Bachelorette) generic script is written, it could have been any big city or ethnic make-up, and it would have achieved the same results.
Michael Ealy (Last Vegas, Barbershop 2) stars as Danny, who has spent the last year out of relationships, still getting over his ex. To try to get him out of his rut and out on the town, his rambunctious best friend Bernie (Hart, Ride Along) invites him along to one of his dates with his new fling, Joan (Hall, The Best Man Holiday). Joan has invited her best friend and roomie Debbie (Bryant, Bobby), who hasn't found the dating experience very promising herself. Debbie and Danny find an instant bond with each other, soon going off and making an evening out for themselves -- a one-night stand that turns out to be the beginning of a relationship that carries them over the next year, with all of its ups and downs.
The biggest draw to About Last Night will be its cast, especially in the casting of comedian Kevin Hart. Hart gets top billing despite being cast in what is clearly a supporting character. He delivers on what you'd expect, especially in some feisty comic interplay with gifted comic actress Regina Hall, both of whom appear to be improvising on the spot throughout. To say they steal the movie would be an understatement; they are responsible for any energy or interesting moments the film has at all. And they get nearly as much screen time as what is supposed to be the main couple. Truth be told, I don't find them particularly funny or witty in this film, but they do arrest the attention nevertheless with their sheer obnoxious exuberance for loud conversations, which distracts from the stale main story with a double shot of caffeine to get the film to the finish line without completely falling apart.
As for Ealy and Bryant, they come off as wholly bland, partially because their characters are supposed to be those who eschew going out and having fun, and partially because these actors are cast more to flash their bodies and smiles than for their on-screen charisma or their dramatic acting ability. Their arguments are petty and forced, and though both seem to have plenty of time for contemplation, their approaches to the relationship are shallow and manufactured. Besides this, they don't seem to work as a couple at any point, as each is more concerned about his or her own needs, especially sexual needs, than in trying to make any sort of sacrifice or compromise. It's not a surprise that they have been single long term. Paula Patton (Baggage Claim, 2 Guns) gets an extended cameo as Danny's ex in a role that showcases just how inept she is at comedy, and, frankly, is so superfluous that one can only wonder if she were injected into the film during the production just to have another known actor in the mix.
Steve Pink (Hot Tub Time Machine, Accepted) directs, but puts more emphasis on lush aesthetics than in going for heartfelt moments. The best thing I can say about the film is that it looks and sounds pretty. As is the custom for romantic films of this ilk, the characters appear to live well outside their means; Danny has a massive apartment with expensive, catalog-perfect furnishings in one of the cities with the highest costs of living, while working as a restaurant supply salesman in a job so menial that he doesn't even have his own cubicle, much less his own office. Strangely, Debbie makes a lot more money that Danny, yet she needs a roommate. But, logic will always be damned when it comes to romances; it's all appealingly shot by Michael Barrett (Battle of the Year, You Don't Mess with the Zohan), featuring a terrific R&B soundtrack that sets the tempo well. It's all about the pleasant vibe, even if the core story of the film doesn't really work.
Here's how sloppy this script is. Toward the end of the film (it's also in the trailer), Debbie is about to eat a dinner cooked by Joan, and when Joan leaves the room, Bernie gives Debbie a hot tip that Joan is a terrible cook and she should spit out the food into a plastic bag he gives her rather swallow it. It's a scene played for laughs, but makes no sense, since we've not only established that Debbie is not only longtime BFFs with Joan, but they're also been longtime roomies. Is this really the very first time Debbie is trying Joan's cooking?
And here's how maddeningly nonsensical it is. At one point, Debbie and Danny get some quality couch time watching the original version of About Last Night..., with both claiming that it's one of their favorites. And yet, neither of them realize that their names, as well as that of their best friends, are exactly the same as the characters in the movie they're watching. And that their relationship experience, as well as that of Joan and Bernie, correlate to a tee with the events playing out to the characters on their TV screen. No astonishment is expressed at all on these mind-blowing coincidences! Perhaps worst of all, the film they love so much, and must have seen and appreciated many times over the years, doesn't resonate with them enough for them to avoid the same pitfalls in their relationship.
Many viewers will wish at that moment that the rest of the film could proceed with Debbie and Danny just continuing to sit and watch the 1986 version, so we can at least have a chance to see a somewhat better film play out.
©2014 Vince Leo