If there ever was a quintessential ‘80s film it’s About Last Night, which also doubles as one of the great film about the city of Chicago. Rob Lowe and Demi Moore had one of the great screen romances as David Mamet’s play “Sexual Perversity in Chicago” translated into one of the great romantic comedies of the era that still holds up nearly 30 years after its initial release into theatres. When Steve Pink was tabbed to remake it as a film about modern romance in Los Angeles, and translate the humor in a more modern sense, it was a bit odd to say the least.
How do you remake what stands as an American genre classic by changing nearly everything about it aesthetically while retaining the heart of the film?
Steve Pink has opted to throw out most of what worked in the original in terms of storyline and development and keep the bare bones, adapting it for a cast that is more than just aesthetically pleasing. Pink has crafted what might end up being one of the best films of 2014 by taking the heart of the original and taking it in a modern direction. About Last Night is a genuinely touching and affecting film that takes the classic staple of American genre work, the romantic comedy, and shows the power it can have when done correctly.
The film duplicates the premise of the first. Danny (Michael Early) and Debbie (Joy Bryant) “meet cute” and proceed to have a one-night stand. It turns into love and is followed up by cohabitation, of course, and then eventually romantic boredom sets in. Their best friends, Bernie (Kevin Hart) and Joan (Regina Hall) respectively, have a more physical based love affair that is juxtaposed against Danny and Debbie’s more traditional relationship.
The film is punctuated by the more comic setup of Bernie and Joan, of course, as Kevin Hart is too big of a personality to confine to a supporting role in the manner than Jim Belushi. Belushi was also a Chicago guy, so it made sense that a more stereotypical resident of the city would be Rob Lowe’s best friend. A character like Bernie in the 1986 film wouldn’t work in 2014 Los Angeles because L.A and Chicago are so profoundly different that it makes sense to change the spirit of the character to work for L.A. A big burly actor in Hart’s role like Terry Crews would have the same aesthetic as the original but it wouldn’t make as much sense for the nature of L.A to have someone like Crews in that role.
Hart makes sense and it makes for an interesting dynamic next to Michael Early. Hart is a relatively short actor and his lack of height makes his motor mouth style of interactions with Early work all that much more effectively. This interesting dunamic, of having a bigger part for someone who’s smaller, but with a bigger personality, suits the film more effectively because Early doesn’t need as much to work with as Hart does on screen. It’s an interesting dynamic on an aesthetic basis because Hart has to work that much harder to be believable as this lothario type.
Hart’s large personality works for the film in the same way Belushi’s gruff style did for the first film. Early has a thankless role in the lead, like Rob Lowe, because it’s believable that someone as good looking as him wouldn’t have a problem attracting someone like Joy Bryant. Danny in both films was a guy who had a broken heart, on the mend, but was not the ladykiller type his friend was.
Hart’s one man performance in the film nearly carries it to profound levels of brilliance we haven’t seen from a comic actor in some time. Everything in his career has led him to this point and this is a huge film for him. Early and Bryant have to do the heavy lifting on a dramatic basis and their chemistry is what makes the film hum throughout. They’re what makes us keep watching and stay interested; if they weren’t believable or had didn’t work nearly as well together the film would sink.
Hart is there to take care of most of the comedy, as Hall makes for a wonderful foil, and the Let Me Explain and Ride Along star pulls out a brilliant comic performance. Hart owns the screen whenever he’s on it and there’s a reason why the remake features more of the Bernie/Danny relationship than the original did. Early and Hart work well together, as the film has terrific chemistry from its cast as a whole, and Hart shines as the glue that keeps it all together.
About Last Night may have been primed for Valentine’s Day as an obvious hit based on its subject matter alone but don’t skip it just because of the time of year it came out. It’s genuinely funny and will probably wind up as one of the best films of 2014.
Director: Steve Pink Writer: Leslye Headland, based on the screenplay by Tim Kazurinsky and Denise DeClue, based on the play “Sexual Perversity in Chicago” by David Mamet Notable Cast: Michael Early, Joy Bryant, Kevin Hart, Regina Hall
Scott Sawitz is an Inside Pulse original. He's also been featured on The Ultimate Fighter.com, Fox Sports.com, Nerdcore Movement.com, CagePotato.com, Inside Fights.com and Film Arcade.net (among others). When Scott isn't writing about film he's making his own. Check out Drunk Justice Productions right here.