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I tend to despise comedy films that take a likable protagonist and then torture him for hours and we’re supposed to laugh at his misfortune. I simply can’t take that journey because, once I empathize with a character, it’s a painful experience to watch them suffer. After Hours combatted that in a couple of ways, and surprisingly bucked the trend to become a movie I quite enjoyed. The first thing this movie does is establish Griffin Dunne’s character as a somewhat unpleasant person. It’s not that he’s a total jerk and deserving of a miserable night, but he’s not totally innocent either. The other thing that worked for me in After Hours is the gradual build to the night. It starts out just odd instead of awful, and then as the night progresses things get out of control. By the time it’s all so bad it feels like a nightmare, I’m laughing and wondering how it got to this point. Explaining jokes and why I found them funny is a surefire way to take all the humor out of them, so I won’t go into any more minutiae about what made me laugh in After Hours. But I will talk about the style of comedy. It’s interesting because a lot of this “guy who can’t catch a break” comedy feels like something I’d see in a goofier movie, like Police Academy or even Naked Gun. However, in the hands of Scorsese, it takes on a more serious tone. The world around Griffin Dunne feels so real that the insane things that happen to him almost seem logical. It makes some of the more farcical moments feel a little out of place, but I was willing to accept it since this is a comedy. After Hours reminded me a lot of a slightly more adult and gritty version of Adventures in Babysitting (a favorite of mine.) It might not be one of the greatest comedies of all time, but I enjoyed it more than I expected, and would gladly go on that ride again.
1980-th in all they glory
One of my favorites, crazy good time look at life in New York city 1980s from a very strange point of view. Great performances all around!
Sometimes Blobbo have bad day like this...
What a strange film for a director like Scorsese, usually so focused on gritty realism, with it's Tim Burton-y characters, he was initially slated to direct, and screwball comedy elements it all feels a bit off under a director who doesn't entirely seem to get it. The film isn't without it's pleasures however with a charming and sympathetic leading man in Griffin Dunne and entertaining performances from Linda Fiorentino and Teri Garr as two difficult young women along with an off-the-wall visual set-up that does achieve the high fantasy genre that the film seems to be going for. Overall the film doesn't completely work as an absurdist comedy but it's individual pieces are charming enough to create a pleasant little film.
An ordinary schlub, Griffin Dunne, who is bored with his everyday life is enchanted when the lovely Marcy, Rosanna Arquette, gives him her telephone number. When he travels downtown to meet her in the hopes of a hookup he encounters several kooky characters and seemingly insurmountable obstacles in his quest to return home. As he inadvertently offends Julie, Teri Garr, and discovers that the subway fare has increased overnight he struggles to make sense of the world around him as he has arrived in a seemingly inescapable hell-scape. Cheech and Chong play robbers who appear intermittently and their star presumably attracted several stoners to this admittedly trippy film.
The screenplay, written by Scorsese and Joseph Minion, would appear to be a competent comedic script, it is reminiscent of early David O. Russell films like Spanking the Monkey (1994) and Flirting with Disaster (1996) who was most likely inspired by this type of oddball satire, but something about the direction of it saps it of some of it's richness. For example, we hear Dunne talk about his horrible night but we never actually get a sense of the torture he is going through, sure Fiorentino and Arquette appear to be unpleasant but the camera never gives us a sense of any real frustration or suffering from Dunne's perspective. Dunne's performance is convincing but it is only when he has thick "I'm tired" makeup plastered to his eyes that we understand how physically demanding this night has been for him.
The technical elements of the film are mostly interesting with some extra Scorsese flairs added to what could have otherwise been a pedestrian romp. The camera movements have a fluidity to them not seen in your average 80s comedy, see the utterly boring Revenge of the Nerds (1984), with crisp close up shots of our protagonist and effective panning which shows the many oddities of Marcy's neighborhood. The set design also pops as we see very 80s apartments littered with neon colored knick knacks and odd sculptures that serve as an immediate shorthand for the weirdness of these characters and the environment they exist in. One criticism I would have of how the film is technically crafted, other than the previously mentioned lack of stress buildup, is the terrible score in which two songs are used over and over, initially I found myself liking their Bernard Herrmann-esque sound, but as they kept getting played the film moved into almost self-parody and the lack of variety hurt some otherwise fun scenes in the film.
The best part of the film is the performances and Dunne is a fantastic leading man, almost a precursor to Ben Stiller but with less morbid wit and more sweetness, he is one of the few parts of this film that seems to perfectly fit the genre he is working in. His interactions with Arquette are twee but believable and his annoyance at the various women who bombard him with their requests are both assured, fully integrated components of the character. Teri Garr is funny but tragic, she struck a similar note in Tootsie (1982), as she sexually harasses the harasses the main character, through a modern lens these interactions are more scary than hilarious but Garr's performance remains well-suited to the film. The various other performers in the film, particularly Fiorentino, work as an eclectic bunch of fruitcakes and the comedic beats often work despite Scorsese's direction and due to the abilities of these actors.
I would recommend this film because it is relatively short at 97 minutes and is light and funny enough to watch with family and friends. It is not thought provoking or shocking as most of Scorsese's work is but it is a delightful mid-80s comedy with a more interesting construction than most films during that period and it deserves a larger audience considering the popularity of the genre it exists within. That is good enough for fifteenth on list. This is certainly an outlier within Scorsese's career but it is not an unpleasant one and it is nice to see him experiment with lighter material.
Exceptional movie Griffin Dunne excels on playing the Ulysses of Soho.
The best comedy movie ever made!
Griffin Dunne plays a cubicle working blue collar- the type that was so rampant in the mid 80s, who accidently experiences a series of bizarre misadventures in New York City. After Hours is not typical Scorsese fare and one reason it works is because of the legendary filmmaker's deft skills- the atmosphere is amazing as is the pacing of the film. The protagonist is relatable in an everyman lost and confused kind of way. Like a bad dream or surreal experience After Hours is one hell of a ride. As stated in the opening line of this review- it is a travesty that more people aren't aware of this film. (Like a nightmare After Hours will stay with you).
This is one of Scorsese's lesser known films which is a travesty. Griffin Dunne plays a cubicle working blue collar- the type that was so rampant in the mid 80s, who accidently experiences a series of bizarre misadventures in New York City. This is not typical Scorsese fare and one reason it works is because of the legendary filmmaker's deft skills- the atmosphere is amazing as is the pacing of the film. The protagonist is relatable in an everyman lost and confused kind of way. Like a bad dream or surreal experience After Hours is one hell of a ride. As stated in the opening line of this review- it is a travesty that more people aren't aware of this film.