Love is like a double-edged samurai sword. On one side, it slices thin icy cuts through vulnerable hearts. It shatters confidence, crushes self-esteem, and knocks down inflated expectations with projected dysfunctional blows. But on the other side, the tip glows at heated passionate levels, melting winter storm flurries of mess into mushy, gushy, slushy emotions. Those cut by this arrow-sharp cupid blade, quickly slip, slide, and fall into a deep potholed puddle of quicksand-like bliss.
You’ll see these two intense sides of love in About Last Night. Amidst a hefty load of laughter, the film stars the powerhouse cast of Kevin Hart, Regina Hall, Michael Ealy, and Joy Bryant, centering around the unpredictable temperature changes rooted in romance.
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The Plot: A chance encounter between Danny (Ealy) and Debbie (Bryant), creates a reluctant connection that morphs through spontaneous seasons of love – from a one night stand to cohabitation to breakups and make ups. While Bernie (Hart) and Joan (Hall) hilariously indulge freaky endorphins that keep them in the midst of sexual escapades as often as they comically fuss and fight.
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What makes this film unique and refreshing are a multitude of things successfully combined into one: Foul-mouthed sex romps coupled with love contemplation and dating in a way that's never been seen before by using a mostly black cast. Of course, About Last Night isn’t for the church going, baby-boomer-born type. It’s for those who live or aspire to have a young professional lifestyle. It’s for those comfortable with seeing well-spoken, educated women that enjoy French manicures and Gucci bags, along with sports bars and sips of wine with basketball games and swearing sailor tongues. It’s for some who’ve ever fathomed impromptu sex in a bathroom stall during after-work happy hour. Scenes showing career-driven marketing executive, Joan, cook an entire soul-food Thanksgiving meal, in-between stress-relieving puffs of weed, rolled by her Dentist-by-day best friend Joan, are more real and indicative of today’s climate than any network TV reality show.
Add the sight of professional, African Americans living in trendy, upwardly mobile places like Downtown LA, where they’re dating and daring to fall in love, no matter how bumpy the road, and you'll see a side of Black culture that has not been seen on screen. In About Last Night, you’ll find no occurrences of abuse. No infidelity. And no insecure Mary Jane Paul or fly Olivia Pope type sistas pining over the wrong, unavailable man, again. Written by screenwriter Leslye Headland - who is White - yes, the main characters happen to be Black. But if you blink, they could easily be Caucasion, Asian, Indian and any other color that American TV might make you think doesn’t indulge in typical social and dating customs that are regularly seen through a one skin-toned viewpoint on the big and small screen.
“What we were going for is definitely real and edgy. Not playing it safe. We didn’t just want to do some Hollywood, sanitized typical rom-com,” says About Last Night producer Will Packer. “So I think that some of the raunchiness or vulgarity is the reality. And I think the timing was right to do again, from a contemporary perspective. What is it like today for young adults who are living and loving and having sex and doing all that they do in a contemporary setting against the backdrops of the Internet, texting, sexting, Facebook, Twitter and the like?”
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A “remake” of the 1986 original film starring Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, Jim Belushi, and Elizabeth Perkins, the 80’s version of About Last Night was based in Chicago with Lowe and Moore’s characters being the Michael Ealy and Joy Bryant roles of today. “For me, it was less like the ‘86 film and more of a current adaptation of the play. And that, to me, had more edge. Much more edgy. Much more funny. And less melodramatic than the movie.” says Ealy. “And what really drew me to it was the in depth nature with which we explored the kind of finite details of a relationship. Men tend to need to have their shit together before they can be valuable contributors to a relationship. They can be the greatest guy in the world, someone you want your mom to meet, but he’s not quite ready. You can’t change someone. So the timing of when you meet them is [about] do the stars line up or not. That’s really what it comes down to.”
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In 1974, when the planets aligned and playwright David Mamet brought “Sexual Perversity in Chicago” to stage, he never fathomed it might still resonate 40 years later. Adapted for film, the play’s name was changed to About Last Night in an attempt to appease fears the studio assumed Mamet’s “Perversity” name might garner. Still, when the movie came to life, Mamet panned it saying, "As a callow youth with hay sticking out of my ears, I sold both the play and the screenplay for about $12 and a mess of porridge...."
But artists, writers in this case, tend to be their own worst critics. Sensitive about seeing, and fearful of having, their art taken, changed, and carelessly thrown against a wall like a cheap supermarket picture frame. Scribes with little control tend to end up dissatisfied. They often never approvingly see their projects live up to the treasured time and magnitude of effort that studios often abruptly cut from the creative womb, snatch into the cold world, and careless present in a way that provokes a writer’s cries of squealing pain.
But Mamet might enjoy this latest version of About Last Night. The unfiltered comedic rawness and intentional, sharp, edgy take brings things back to the days of his relished play. The realities and questions of modern multicultural dating, take a diversified touch that sees real lives and circumstances manifested into imitated art on screen.
About Last Night hits theaters February 14.