About Last Night
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
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
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
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.