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Film Review | Raunchy humor elevates ‘About Last Night’

Published: Thursday, February 20, 2014

Updated: Thursday, February 20, 2014 08:02

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Courtesy Matt Kennedy / Screen Gems Productions

Throughout the past year, amidst serious dramas and intense con movies, the romantic comedy has slightly fallen by the wayside. Perhaps this is due to one of the inescapable trademarks of the genre: clichés. It seems that some audience members are becoming amateur critics -- their eyes are hungry for new images, their brains thirsty for novel plotlines. Yet there is still much value in the rom-com. While you may not be fond of platitudes about love and predictable stories, the genre -- when it features solid chemistry and cleverly bold jokes -- is often worth watching.

“About Last Night,” a contemporary romantic comedy that centers around two sets of best friends and their entangling love lives, falls into this category. While the plotline is, in practically every way, nothing new, the film still has its merits and viewers will leave the theater feeling more satisfied than if they had stayed at home and tried one of the storybook rom-coms on Netflix. The difference between director Steve Pink’s work and the dull tales of love that have been permeating the movie scene these past few years is that he has at least dressed up his cliché with gripping humor.

Comedian Kevin Hart is known for his self-deprecating hilarity, his fearlessly loud remarks and for brazenly telling it straight. These elements are abundant in “About Last Night,” and his whimsically blunt jokes are a breath of fresh air in a film that had the potential to feel tired and flat. This raunchy comedic nature -- which comes not just from Hart, but from the film as a whole -- surprisingly enhances the movie and allows for it to feel shockingly real. From the frank sex talk to the bromantic jibes, Hart and the other actors develop a chemistry that gives more insight into their friendships than any subtle interactions could.

However, the film does have its flaws. While the personalities of the characters and the way they collide with one another is delightful to watch, the writing is slightly tedious. This puts the viewer in an odd position, because, although the banter between the characters is engaging and enables audience members connect to their quirkiness, the plot is dry and somewhat stale. This is most noticeable in the relationship between Danny (Michael Ealy) and Debbie (Joy Bryant). Originally very cute, their interactions slowly become highly passive and aggressive, and though it’s clear they are falling apart, neither the viewers nor the characters themselves know what went wrong. When Danny asks, “What are we fighting about this time?” the viewer is left wondering the same exact thing.

Furthermore, even the scenes of reconciliation (of which there are many) and tenderness are too short to evoke a realistic understanding of the relationships. Brief conversations do allow for many funny one-liners and the constantly cycling of characters and settings helps to keep the movie going, yet some moments still lose their potential to be touching. This is evident when Bernie (Hart) and Joan (Regina Hall) engage in a terse exchange that eventually becomes the turning point that catalyzes their reunion. At a party, Bernie tries to flirt with Joan -- who then points out that she is with another man. She introduces the two, later stating that Bernie will now go to a bar and try to pick up a girl with low self-esteem. When Bernie denies her claim and declares that, “The only girl with low self-esteem I wanted tonight was you,” Joan’s face is shocked and filled with warmth. While such jibes are funny in Hart’s usual declaratory voice, this time he delivers his lines in a quiet, more subdued tone. Instead of being comical, this moment feels jarring and puzzling.

Yet despite some plotline gaps, numerous clichés and strange references to the 1986 original film -- which Danny and Debbie watch together while eating Chinese takeout -- as well as some strangely copied seasonal transitions that highly echo Marc Webb’s “(500) Days of Summer” (2009), the film does find its own voice solely through the shamelessly raunchy humor and the willingness of all four central characters to plunge in head first, interact passionately with one another and see what happens. The result? A refreshing take on the romantic comedy that has been sorely missed these past few years.

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