by Adam Riske
Director Steve Pink’s 2014 interpretation of David Mamet’s 1974 play Sexual Perversity in Chicago (unseen by me; same with the 1986 Ed Zwick movie of which this is a remake) is a Frankenstein's monster of a romantic comedy. It is one part broad comedy, one part unengaging romance and one part yuppie lifestyle porn inhabited with characters you want to get together if only to get them off the market and out of reach of innocent bystanders.
The plot in brief: About Last Night follows the ups and downs of two relationships: the volatile twosome of Bernie (Kevin Hart) and Joan (Regina Hall) and their sweeter friends Danny (Michael Ealy) and Debbie (Joy Bryant), who are fixed up by the other couple. Will each pair be able to survive all of their own self-induced efforts to sabotage their own happiness? Do you even care? You shouldn’t. These people are all ciphers.
That Awkward Moment. The guys are spending their time playing Xbox and one character (supposedly a big sports fan) is suggesting how his favorite sports bar should be turned into a tavern with a beer garden complete with twinkle lights. I’m not saying a person who is not white wouldn’t be interested in these things, but it plays out similar to the book Stuff White People Like if it were made into a movie. Considering how many of the absolute best ensemble and romantic comedies in the past 20 years have featured primarily black casts and filmmakers, this is especially disappointing. Most of those movies have a warm and worthwhile point of view. About Last Night 2014 is Starbuck'd, flavorless and seemingly informed by people with little life experience as adults.
About Last Night also suffers from the “riff, Kevin, riff” problem. Much of the screen time devoted to the Kevin Hart and Regina Hall coupling feels improvised, as if director Steve Pink let the two of them run with their outbursts. These rants start vulgar and funny but grow quickly tedious; at a certain point, it becomes more about landing a joke and I couldn't understand why Bernie and Joan would even want to be a couple. These two performers, agreeable and funny in other movies, feed off each other and bring out one another’s untapped worst qualities -- Kevin Hart’s cynical arrogance and Regina Hall’s interpretation of a female Kevin Hart. Why do so many romantic movies think that audiences want to see characters that crave conflict or think the only way to display passion is to be at each other’s throats?
About Last Night announces its lousiness fairly early on, so I quickly grew impatient with it. It’s the type of movie that even rolls out the old trope of the ex-girlfriend (Paula Patton) coming back into the leading man’s life just to fuck with his current relationship. Of course, the guy is so stupid that he brings her back to his apartment so we can see a scene of him maybe getting busted by the current girlfriend in a wacky misunderstanding.
The movie was directed by Steve Pink, who also made the somewhat underrated Accepted and the meh Hot Tub Time Machine. About Last Night is the worst of the three, but even more disappointing because Pink was one of the writers behind High Fidelity, a great romantic comedy full of character specificity, humor and flawed but sympathetic characters. I think at least half of the movie’s problems would be solved if it were written by Pink instead of Headland. My favorite faux pas of hers is this: in a scene set on Thanksgiving Day, she shows a group of people watching football. College football.
I got a 26 on my ACT in high school. If you got that or higher, you are probably too smart to enjoy About Last Night.