‘About Last Night’ Review
Relationships are hard. Love is challenging. Friendships are precious. Sometimes people have randomly and abnormally large bathtubs in the middle of their loft-styled bedrooms. Puppies solve everything. And a romantic comedy is not a romantic comedy without dicing in some classic clichés, but at least Steve Pink’s ‘About Last Night’ proves that a plucky cast and some raunchy wordplay can punch up even the most tired of cinematic endeavors.
Loosely based on the 1986 film of the same name (so loosely, in fact, that the film actually features a clip from the original, and none of the characters think anything of it), which was in turn loosely based on the David Mamet play ‘Sexual Perversity in Chicago’ (yes, there’s also a play on that title spoken at one point, too), Pink’s feature sticks to the very basics of the original plot to deliver a mostly amusing new production.
Basics are, however, all really he needs to make the feature zip right along, and sticking to a core group of four characters and their trademark banter helps the film maintain a strong sense of fun, even if its not nearly as original as seems to think it is. ‘About Last Night’ opens, suitably enough, with a pair of dueling narratives, as Bernie (Kevin Hart) tells his best pal Danny (Michael Ealy) about the wild night he had the evening before, while his new lady Joan (Regina King) dishes the real dirt about their first encounter to her own best friend Debbie (Joy Bryant). The sequence concludes with all four characters on an awkward double date, as Joan and Bernie paw at each other across the table from their more straight-laced friends.
The pairings are clear enough, and ‘About Last Night’ ostensibly tracks both Bernie and Joan’s sex- and rage-fueled relationship (the central joke here is that they love to argue with each other, a seemingly one-note plot point that Hart and King transform into something outstandingly funny) and Debbie and Danny’s much more traditional romance (and one that is significantly more boring and less satisfying than whatever is going on over in Bernie and Joan’s Nutty Cuckooland). As Danny and Debbie wrestle with all the typical relationship demons, they fast track their romance, and their situation is made all the more sticky by the inevitable blowout break-up of Bernie and Joan.
Can the lovey-dovey duo possibly survive normal issues acerbated by a pair of total nuts? Eh, maybe. But who cares? Bernie and Joan are the best thing going in ‘About Last Night,’ wildly entertaining and consistently amusing, and Danny and Debbie’s snoozy downer of a relationship is beyond negating. Their relationship is cobbled together from just about every romantic comedy trope imaginable, and while Bernie and Joan pop, Danny and Debbie simply fizzle. There’s also the looming specter of Danny’s evil ex-girlfriend Alison (Paula Patton), whose name is invoked so often that audiences might half-expect her to pop out of a mirror at any given point, and whose eventual entry into the film puts one final nail in the predictable coffin.
Screenwriter Leslye Headland’s sensibility runs towards the raunchy and foul-mouthed, and while that didn’t work out so well for her ‘Bachelorette’ (coming off the feel-good high of ‘Bridesmaids'; her mean-girls-get-married hate-fest stung more than a little), it fits in perfectly with the frisky tone of ‘About Last Night.’ It certainly doesn’t hurt that Hart and King both have the comedic timing to pull it off, and their chemistry crackles off the screen (give these two a spin-off, and now). Headland’s no holds barred writing allows the film to feel frank about relationships – both romantic and platonic – though there are plenty of off-kilter moments that rob it of feeling purely rooted in the real world (a sequence of events in which one of the couples move in together and only later dole out their first “I love yous” feels deeply, deeply strange).
While Bernie and Joan are played for the big laughs, Pink and Headland try to steer the film into more dramatic territory with Danny and Debbie, but their relationship isn’t compelling or entertaining enough to keep the film’s later half chugging right along. Debbie’s, yes, downer personality is a waste on the lovely Bryant, and the wildly inconsistent Danny is too much for the usually charming Ealy to effectively rope. ‘About Last Night’ may have plenty to say about relationships, and it may deliver with increasingly grating tropes, but the real heart of it is the biting and witty humor that is eventually relegated to a sideshow. Give Hart and King their own film, and don’t bring Ealy and Bryant along for the raunchy ride.
'About Last Night' is in theaters now.