Review: ‘About Last Night’ redo tempers melodrama
There can never be too many tales about a one-night stand turned long-term love affair.
Perhaps the allure comes from the hope that anyone can fall hard, despite the lack of a courtship. The latest take on this scenario, a reimagined version of the 1986 hit “About Last Night...,” offers a modern spin on the challenges of connecting with strange bedfellows; a reboot that is as satisfying as breakfast in bed the morning after an unexpected rendezvous.
Based on David Mamet’s 1974 play, “Sexual Perversity in Chicago,” the 1980s film adaptation, which starred Demi Moore and Rob Lowe, centered on 20-something yuppies in Chicago. The Leslye Headland (“Bachelorette”) penned “About Last Night” focuses on African-American singles in their 30s navigating the dating world in contemporary downtown Los Angeles.
Most of the original plot points remain the same: Danny (Michael Ealy) and Debbie (Joy Bryant) play a pair attempting to avoid dating because they have been hurt in the past. But after they meet at a bar — and sleep together that same night — they begin a relationship, shack up, break up and reunite. Kevin Hart and Regina Hall portray dysfunctional couple Bernie, Danny’s crude best bud, and Joan, Debbie’s pessimistic roommate. Bernie and Joan also jump into bed the first night they meet.
Similar to the way Vince Vaughn and Isla Fisher stole the show with their unforgettably bizarre romance in “Wedding Crashers” as a dysfunctional, lusty pair, Hart and Hall are the best part of this film. They play the couple you know all too well: fiery, able to press one another’s buttons and always caught in the makeup to breakup game.
Hall offers one of her most impressive performances. Her sharp comedic timing is on par with rising funnyman Hart’s. Whether attempting a drunken quickie in a bathroom stall, fighting over who should be on top during sex or trading hateful quips, their scenes together are always playful, absurd and clever.
This is partly due to screenwriter Headland’s ability to make the humor swell. What made ’80s love stories so great were the long daytime TV-like pauses and sweeping Casio keyboard-backed ballads. These elements created heavy melodrama, a facet that’s been dropped in the new version, allowing for more comedy and a lighter feel overall. But did we really need a montage dedicated to texting selfies? Luckily the film’s vulgar humor helps make up for the shortcomings, cementing “About Last Night” as solid fodder for anyone looking to crack up over questionable dating rituals.
There’s an abundance of sex here, too. Bernie and Joan’s kinky scenes get pretty lewd (at one point Joan wears a chicken mask). But Hart and Hall can pull them off. Ealy and Bryant, on the other hand, lack heat. This is especially disappointing because we’ve seen them connect well with on-screen love interests in the past. Ealy’s romance with Halle Berry in the TV movie “Their Eyes Were Watching God” appeared far more pure, as did Bryant and Derek Luke’s sweet love in “Antwone Fisher.” But together, Ealy and Bryant’s interactions feel forced, which makes it hard to root for them.
Directed by Steve Pink (“Hot Tub Time Machine”) and produced by Will Packer (“Think Like a Man”), the film notably avoids becoming a story only for an African-American audience, proving narratives featuring characters of color can be just as universal as any other. Overall, this modern take is an honest look at how couples can develop, sabotage and salvage relationships in 2014.
“About Last Night,” a Sony Pictures release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for “sexual content, language and brief drug use.” Running time: 100 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.
MPAA definition of R: Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
Follow Jessica Herndon on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/SomeKind