About Last Night (2014) – Review

Directed by Steve Pink
Written by Leslye Headland
Starring Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, Regina Hall, Joy Bryant

 

Before we go any further, let me just say I absolutely love About Last Night. Just not this version. The original movie, which even gets a cameo spot here, is one of my favourite ever wastes of time. If you want an idea of the plot, some idea of the inspiration behind this version and why the previous version is so much better, then just go here. If you’re still here, then shame on you, because you really should know better. I am clearly giving you more credit than I should. What the hell, if we must, then we must, I guess.
Personally I find a remake of About Last Night about as necessary as a third nipple and as sacrosanct as any eighties classic you could mention. Would you remake The Breakfast Club, for example? No, of course you wouldn’t. It ushered in a generation of cinemagoers, striking a chord for a generation and mucking about with it, in general, would aggravate hordes of ticket-buying forty-somethings that might just have something to say about it. About Last Night was, if not less well regarded, then certainly less popular and David Mamet’s Sexual Perversity in Chicago, on which the film(s) are based is steeped quite within it’s time, despite attempts to prove that fact null and void.
So despite some very compelling arguments to the contrary, Steve Pink still decided to drag Mamet’s stage play, kicking and screaming against its will and better judgement, into the twenty-first century, with apparently little thought about how diluted this would make it. Retaining little of the original script written for the ’86 incarnation by Tim Kazurinsky, Pink veers aways from the dramatic approach laid on thick by director Ed Zwick as I hit my twenties, undercooking it instead with an over indulgent comedy script that basically takes a lack of modern sensibilities and basically shouts at the notion of subtlety roundly in the face. This shouldn’t really be altogether surprising, given the casting of Kevin Hart and Regina Hall as Bernie and Joan, two characters that really belong on the fringe of a story that was never really supposed to be about them in the first place and if you didn’t know any better, you might wonder why the film insisted on going back to the story of Danny and Debbie at all, given the amount of time devoted to Hart and Hall’s constant love me/hate me bickering. Whilst there are moments of cheer here, is this really what you walked in for? If so, then well done for reading about it first.
Gone is the quiet contemplation about a relationship in turmoil and the drag of true love on the heart and soul. There is an attempt at addressing the vast qualities that the first film enjoyed; perfect direction, tone, pacing and script, but this new version viewed with an appreciation for the original film cannot help but fall short. Practically missing the point of the stage play almost in entirety, Pink’s vision of these two very modern couples that meet, fall in and out love, and then live with the consequences just doesn’t hit the right notes and the tug on the audience that was borne from excellent character development and an everyman recognition that went hand in hand with that just never materialises.
Often funny, the script achieves what it sets out to do, but really, this needs to be aiming higher. Danny (Michael Ealy) and Debbie’s (Joy Bryant) relationship, the feature of the original film doesn’t get the attention it deserves here and, if we’re brutally honest, neither of these two players have the gravitas to pull off what should be a very demanding and thorough character study that Rob Lowe and Demi Moore pulled off with such apparent ease previously.
In short, this is a modern take of a tale that didn’t need re-telling. Given that it arrived anyway, it needed to be much better. Sacrificing much of what made the original film so impressive, it is akin to remaking The Breakfast Club, and taking Judd Nelson out if it. Really, what’s the point?

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