About Last Night (2014)
Directed by: Steve Pink
Premise: A remake of the 1986 film. Two couples meet on a double date and their relationships take off.
What Works: About Last Night revisits and updates the 1986 film and in many respects this remake is better than its predecessor. The original About Last Night was an attempt to break from the stereotypes of romantic comedies of that time. Where a lot of romantic films from the 1980s were fairly soft and safe, 1986’s About Last Night had a rawness and an unglamorous honesty about it that gave the movie a lot of credibility. The 2014 version of About Last Night retains much of the original film’s profane honesty with the characters discussing their sex lives in graphic detail. That makes this film and its characters recognizable to the audience as authentic people who share the same dialect and experiences as the viewers. But this version of About Last Night exceeds the original in two ways. First, the leads played by Michael Ealy and Joy Bryant are very likable. The critical element of every romance is the couple. The audience must want to see them succeed for the movie to work and Ealy and Bryant have that appeal, much more so than Demi Moore and Rob Lowe of the original film. Ealy and Bryant are likeable in part because the two of them look adorable on screen but also because they have a believable romantic chemistry together. The opening of the movie sets them up very effectively as vulnerable people who find each other and the courtship moves along steadily, so steadily in fact that the movie only gets rickety when it forces the conflict. The other improvement of the remake of About Last Night is the way it strengthens and fixes the plotting of the first movie. The filmmakers of the 2014 version seem to have looked at the raw material of the original picture and found ways to smooth out transitions and make better use of subplots and minor characters so that the whole film comes across much tighter.
What Doesn’t: The story of About Last Night ticks most of the movie romance boxes; this picture is like a small scale version of He’s Just Not That Into You or Definitely, Maybe in that it presents an edgy front that purports to address the new romantic norms of contemporary culture but in actuality it is working its way through familiar movie romance clichés. This becomes apparent when the movie attempts to generate conflict between the couple played by Michael Ealy and Joy Bryant. Their fights come across as forced and contrived; the arguments are generally stupid and emerge from nowhere. The couple seems oblivious to the real source of tension in the movie: their friends played by Kevin Hart and Regina Hall. If any single element of About Last Night will determine its success or failure with audiences, that element is probably the stormy relationship between Hart and Hall’s characters. Kevin Hart is an undeniably popular actor but he seems to be on a mission to establish himself as the most obnoxious comedian since Adam Sandler and in this movie his efforts are matched by actress Regina Hall. They play a couple who constantly fight, with their aggression belying sexual passion. But their banter is not cute or even that funny. Hart and Hall’s characters are horrible people and when they’re not inebriated and screaming insults at one another they are trying to break up the likable couple at the center of the picture. Astute viewers will keep waiting for Michael Ealy and Joy Bryant’s characters to realize that the real poison in their relationship is not each other but their friends and dump them. But the characters, and presumably the filmmakers, never make that obvious connection.
Bottom Line: About Last Night is a flawed movie because of its reliance on the comedy of Kevin Hart but the central relationship between Michael Ealy and Joy Bryant is engaging enough to make the movie work. This is an enjoyable romance and a worthwhile remake.
Episode: #482 (March 16, 2014)