The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


About Last Night

When it was released in 1986, About Last Night... was only a modest box office success. Despite having then newly-minted stars Rob Lowe and Demi Moore, the film, based on David Mamet's play Sexual Perversity in Chicago, contained more adult themes than many fans of “Brat Pack” cinema were probably prepared to handle. Still, it was a smart movie about relationships, and if it never amassed the long-term fan base that St. Elmo's Fire did, it remains a generally well-regarded relic of the 1980s. A lot of pictures from that decade have been remade, few of them for any apparent reason. About Last Night (minus the ellipsis) updates the material for the current era very successfully.

Kevin Hart plays Bernie, a guy who has just begun a somewhat torrid – and slightly adversarial – sexual relationship with Joan (Regina Hall). They each invite a friend along on one of their dates, and the pals, Danny (Michael Ealy) and Debbie (Joy Bryant), hit it off, ending up in bed mere hours after meeting. Danny has some issues, though; he's still reeling from a devastating breakup with his ex, Alison (Paula Patton), and is reluctant to get too deeply involved. He nevertheless quickly finds himself in a bona fide union, where he must deal with attending to another person's needs, missing the days when he could guiltlessly pick up chicks with his buddies, and staying with a job he dislikes so as not to appear “beneath” his financially stable girlfriend. Meanwhile, Bernie and Joan break up, only to continue fighting every time they see each other, which is frequently since their best friends are dating.

About Last Night is about two people who love each other dearly but don't know how to communicate, and how this lack of communication takes a toll on their relationship. For the most part, the story is told from Danny's point of view. Vulnerable and scared, he wants to be with Debbie, yet also fears getting his heart trampled again. Rather than just admitting this to her, he often acts against his own self-interests, sabotaging something that is legitimately great in his life. Debbie knows what's going on, but understandably wants him to open up to her, rather than having to pressure him. This, in turn, causes her to become frustrated and short with him. At one point, she even asks if he thinks he's in a relationship or just a really long one-night stand. The movie hits on a lot of issues that will be identifiable to audiences. Whereas most romantic-comedies are concerned only with whether or not the main couple will end up together, About Last Night is more interested in exploring the bumps relationships hit and how people navigate them.

Michael Ealy and Joy Bryant are very good in the roles once inhabited by Lowe and Moore. They create a believable romance. We come to care about them, which makes their lack of effective communication of concern to us. In some respects, About Last Night turns the audience into a surrogate friend to Danny and Debbie. You want to say, “Dude, go talk to her!” or “He didn't mean to hurt you. He's just scared!” You can't make that claim for most rom-coms. Kevin Hart and Regina Hall – filling in for Jim Belushi and Elizabeth Perkins - are terrific too, providing the comic relief. In fact, the comedy has been cranked up considerably from the original, so as to allow Hart to launch into some of his patented riffs on relationships and sex. He and Hall also get in a hilariously funny/weird sex scene that's likely to be much discussed by those who see the film. All four of the main players bring something essential to the table.

That's a good thing, because where About Last Night falters slightly is in the occasionally sloppy storytelling. While the performances are strong and the themes insightful, the plot tends to blow through things much too quickly. Scenes of importance and potential depth are, at times, glossed over or truncated to get in a joke. Some of the problems faced by Danny and Debbie arise out of nowhere, or are resolved abruptly. Director Steve Pink (Hot Tub Time Machine) and screenwriter Leslye Headland (Bachelorette) clearly wanted to give the movie a snappy pace. By and large, they succeeded, but once in a while, it snaps when we want it to linger for a bit.

About Last Night is still plenty smart and entertaining, and in an era where cinematic romances tend to wade in the shallow end of the pool, that's a notable accomplishment. Ealy, Bryant, Hart, and Hall are all incredibly appealing. They bring so much truth and honesty to their performances that a few minor storytelling flaws are easily overlooked. This is a remake that feels relevant.

( out of four)

About Last Night is rated R for sexual content, language and brief drug use. The running time is 1 hour and 40 minutes.

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