It’s very, very easy to hate a generic movie. You sit in the theater frustrated, knowing exactly how the story is going to wrap itself up, and when you’re prediction is confirmed you can’t take any joy in being right because the movie basically just ripped you off for $8 and the chance to do something meaningful with two hours of your life. The perfect solution to generic movies would be for Hollywood to open its doors to all kinds of crazy and creative new ideas, but until that happens, we may have to settle for option B: generic movies that have the ability to distract with real entertainment value.
This is where director Steve Pink’s About Last Night enters the conversation. The film is a remake of an 80s romantic dramedy of the same name, which was in turn based on the David Mamet play “Sexual Perversity in Chicago,” so audiences shouldn’t expect it to reinvent the wheel. But what it does provide is a vehicle for four extremely talented actors to spend some time crafting interesting characters with great dialogue, and even a touch of real emotional honestly.
Transplanting the story from Mamet’s Chicago to the sunny streets of Los Angeles, the film follows four attractive young adults as they experience the trials and tribulations of life and love. While Bernie (Kevin Hart) and Joan (Regina Hall) first hook up as a one night stand that extends to a short-lived relationship, their respective best friends, Danny (Michael Ealy) and Debbie (Joy Bryant), could be the real deal. As the months pass and the conversation changes from “About Last Night,” to “About Last Fall” and “About Last Winter,” the relationships between both the couples and the friends evolve and develop and the character’s must contend with the ever-changing way that they feel about each other.
An easy way for a film to earn an audiences’ affection is to populate it with characters that they would want to hang out with on a regular basis. In that respect, About Last Night is blessed. Hart, Hall, Ealy and Bryant all feature a perfect mix of charisma and likability, which, when filtered through authentic characters, helps movie-goers really root for them in the story and hope for their happy ending. As the more unhinged half of the ensemble, Hart and Hall are really the film’s highlight, as they have a great dynamic together and share most of the film’s funniest lines. But Ealy and Bryant take the brunt of the dramatic work on their shoulders and do a stellar job carrying it.
Mamet is best known for his crackling, profanity-laden dialogue, and screenwriter Leslye Headland’s script really does a great job of maintaining it in her adaptation. Making perfect use of the R-rating, the film’s best material is the various conversations between Hart and Ealy and Hall and Bryant as they discuss their respective relationships in all kinds of vivid detail. In addition to being cut together impeccably, each one is laugh-out-loud funny, and incredibly natural to the point where it feels like a conversation you’ve had with your best friend. Each scene has excellent flow, and is simply fun to watch.
In a devil’s advocate argument for the most generic titles that Hollywood produces, one might make the point that clichés are clichés for a reason, and About Last Night is actually good evidence for that contention. There’s a 90% probability that anyone reading the film’s plot description could map out the trajectories for both of the plot’s key relationships, but the movie – and the romances in particular – never feel fake or forced, but instead surprisingly authentic. It’s both the movie you expect it to be and one that will surprise you, and I mean that in the best way possible.
Reviewed By: Eric Eisenberg