About Last Night
Directed by: Steve Pink Cast: Michael Ealy, Kevin Hart, Joy Bryant, Regina Hall, Christopher McDonald Running Time: 1 hr 40 mins Rating: R Release Date: February 14, 2014
PLOT: Bernie (Hart) and Debbie (Hall) start to hate each other when a highly-sexual relationship gets serious. Meanwhile, their respective roommates Danny (Ealy) and Debbie (Bryant) begin to fall in love.
WHO'S IT FOR? Those who like their amount of real-life romance equaled to their sexual comedy, even if the sum is a bit underwhelming. And similarly, those who can look past a terribly made film.
Featuring three main performers from 2012's Think Like a Man, About Last Night has a few credible moments within its story. With disturbing misfortune, they are amongst an experience of bad filmmaking. For sake of not losing my readership off the bat, I'll save that tangent for later, and will at least start with what works here.
For a remake of play adaptation, About Last Night has a decent script, cast well to strengths even if it doesn't reach that big of a success. Playing a couple bound by the "rare spark" but then later divided by domestication, the storyline between Michael Ealy and Joy Bryant has some nice touches of honesty. As their relationship presents a couple's entire arc, Ealy and Bryant also have sustainable chemistry. It is done within a rare air for something still categorized as a "romantic comedy." This is where About Last Night hits a few genuine notes, harping agreeably on the frank nature its title opens one up to.
From its "honest" beginning, About Last Night revs up Regina Hall and Kevin Hart in the first scene to be loud and confrontational. While a few lines and situations between the two earn laughs, they are like two side characters. As sidekicks, Hall & Hart have lead role screentime. They contribute little to the film's wisdom with their boisterous sex-and-hate anti-friendship. The two provide a disturbing example of the struggle to reach compromise in turbulent relationships. While it may try in the third act, About Last Night creates no surprising wisdom out of this unusual pairing, instead only chaos.
The rampaging of Hall and Hart finds its match, and is then surpassed to means of grave unpleasantness, by director Steve Pink's filmmaking choices. If I had the video essay gumption, I would probably use the aesthetic atrocities of About Last Night as my first investigation. Yet then, looking again at this film could only bring pain.
About Last Night is edited with malice. Not just because of the shreds that remain of scenes that could have been more fluid, but for the chore it makes in viewing the film. In a fashion only experienced in massively-bungled wannabe spectacles like Getaway, the invisible art of film editing becomes opaque immedately. Especially when two characters are talking, the film exhibits a surrealist need to squeeze in millisecond reaction shots of listening characters. This happens in the midst of an already quick cutting rate. Imagine listening to one person talk, and then a second person shouts right in your face. It's disorienting, distracting, etc. The movie carries on like this for its entirety, sometimes tossing in an unnecessary jump cut to stagger the viewer.
This isn't like Grown Ups 2's choice to hold a shot distinctively long after a joke (or in some cases, right before the punchline settles in). This is a disruptive choice utilized throughout the film. The editing in About Last Night resembles strobe lights, and is as loud as the tantrum duels had by Hall and Hart.
In attempts to intertwine discussions had by the two friend couples, About Last Night cuts back and forth between the pairs. It seems like one pairing is finishing the other's conversation. The film uses this cute trick right off the bat, to create a sense of similarity between the characters. Small in skill, it is the only distinct editing stunt it can pull off. Even a simple handshake between Michael Ealy and Christopher McDonald is cut so that the sounds of their hands meeting is an audio cue for the next scene.
There are other unfortunate moments as well. Perhaps specific sure, but nonetheless parts to an indifferently made Hollywood movie. An exterior shot that zooms into an apartment window with hyper speed had me laughing out loud. An outdated and ugly stock image of Los Angeles public transit took me out of the film, and back to memories of Tyler Perry's Good Deeds.
About Last Night, and last month's That Awkward Moment, give further prudence that the early-year season isn't just the time for weird movies (including a film in which Aaron Eckhart plays a man named "Adam Frankenstein"). It is also a time for poorly assembled ones. In the case of About Last Night, its visual setbacks become annoying to the better things happening onscreen.
FINAL SCORE: 4/10