(2014)2Perry SeibertComplaining that a remake of a movie that was itself an adaptation of a play lacks originality may seem redundant, but Steve Pink's version of About Last Night doesn't really bring anything fresh or new to the material aside from an appealing cast.
The story gets underway when nice guy Danny (Michael Ealy), still nursing a broken heart, is asked to be a wingman for a date involving his extroverted best friend Bernie (Kevin Hart) and a woman named Joan (Regina Hall), whom Bernie picked up at a bar a few days earlier and shared a night of memorable, if not fantastic, sex. Joan arrives with her BFF Debbie (Joy Bryant), who has been on the dating scene for so long that she's grown cynical about ever meeting the right guy. Bernie and Joan are soon throwing back drinks and salaciously flirting with each other, while Debbie and Danny bond intimately over their heartache and frustrations. Over the course of the next year, the couples and friends fight, break up, make up, and engage in a fair amount of outrageous erotic shenanigans -- something to be expected from a story that started as a David Mamet play titled Sexual Perversity in Chicago.
That opening scene, and in fact the entire first 30 minutes of About Last Night, works splendidly. Screenwriter Leslye Headland takes choice bits from the original play and throws in a few very funny modern references -- for example, Joan describes Bernie's erect member as the John Legend of penises: impressive but not scary. That frankness, combined with solid performances by all four leads, adds up to something that Hollywood rarely produces: an R-rated adult romantic comedy that isn't pandering to men or women.
Sadly, the movie bogs down when the dramatic beats start up. The actors continue to do good work, but the plot concerning the slow dissolution of Danny and Debbie's relationship will be overly familiar even to those who haven't seen the play or the original film adaptation. There are no surprises in this bland trudge through the death of a once promising pair, although it's punctuated by occasional glimpses of the raucous and funny mess that is Bernie and Joan's passionate sex life.
Director Steve Pink and screenwriter Headland make two very bad choices that underline how little originality they're bringing to the material. First, the movie is structured around the seasons of the year. "About Summer," "About Fall," "About Winter," and "About Spring" are all title cards that appear in order to give the picture some semblance of order and symbolize where the relationships are going. This decent (if hoary) conceit is promptly neutered by the filmmakers' decision to set the movie in L.A., where every month of the year looks exactly the same. They have to fabricate a trip to Chicago just to give the film some snow.
Second, and most bizarrely, Danny and Debbie watch the previous version of About Last Night... on TV in one scene, and actually have a discussion about the movie. However, at no point do they later realize that they've been acting exactly like the people in that film, saying many of the same things and facing the exact same problems. It's a move that aims to give the picture some postmodern cred, but all it does is make the generic plot feel even more artificial.
This About Last Night might be a pleasant surprise for adults starved for a frank, sexy, and funny examination of romantic woes, but its blandness keeps it from being truly memorable. It's a one-night stand, not the kind of movie you build a lifelong relationship with.