Wednesday, September 12, 2012

After Hours (1985)

Title: After Hours (1985)

Director: Martin Scorcese

Cast: Griffin Dunne, Rosanna Arquette, Verna Bloom, Linda Fiorentino, Teri Garr, Catherine O’Hara, John Heard, Dick Miller, Bronson Pinchot, Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong


Every once in a while a director will take a project that could have otherwise turned out to be bland or formulaic and elevates it, makes it better then it has any right to be. I think this was the case with After Hours. You kind of get the feeling that had this comedy been under the command of a lesser director, it simply would not have been as good as it is. Had legendary American filmmaker Martin Scorcese not been behind the camera, it could have ended as just another romantic comedy, lost in the shuffle and forgotten in time. But in the hands of Scorcese, this dark comedy is a superior form of comedy film in my book and I might add, criminally underrated.

After Hours tells the story of Paul Hackett, a New York City computer programmer who’s fed up with his life. He’s got a boring job, doing the same thing over and over again; when he goes back home, it’s to watch the same boring channels on television and judging by Hackett’s one tone face, there’s nothing unique or interesting on it;  he surfs through the channels with a blank stare on his face. So after a while he decides to  go out and venture to the outside world, searching for human contact, searching for something other then the numbing loneliness he lives in. The streets he ventures to are the perilous streets of the big apple, circa mid-eighties, which means dark, dangerous and manic. He stops at a coffee shop to read his favorite novel and stumbles upon a beautiful girl whom he apparently has a couple of things in common with. They exchange phone numbers and part ways, but Paul's loneliness gets the better of him and so he ends up calling her up on that very same night! They meet again at her apartment and Paul seems to think he’s going to be getting lucky, for what is wrong with casual sex? A random night of passion? Absolutely nothing! Unfortunately for Hackett, Marcy ends up being a true wacko! He sees the signs and decides to abort mission, but as Hackett will soon find out, going back home is not going to be an easy task.  

Many things make After Hours a good film, not just the fact that Scorcese directed it, though that is the big bonus in my book. Actually a lot of good things came together to make this as special a film; for example, the cast is amazing! The film is mostly centered on Griffin Dunne’s character Paul Hackett, he plays the every man. A blue collar worker type that’s fed up, he wants human contact, he wants something more then just his own self to talk to at night. Unfortunately, the universe seems to be conspiring against him on this night, this is one of those movies where everything goes wrong for the main character. He runs out of money, gets mixed up in all sorts of trouble and meets the craziest people! True blue New York people who live jaded lives in a jaded city. To you or I these characters that Hackett meets through out the course of the evening might seem nuts, or too crazy for real life, but to a New Yorker, this film is merely an exaggeration of every day New York life. Every character is brought to life by a gifted actor. Terry Gar for example, whom I always remember as Inga from Mel Brook’s Young Frankenstein (1974), is hilarious on this one as a waitress who’s a lonely desperate woman, looking for the right man to snatch up and devour! Catherine O’Hara plays this psychotic woman who has her own Mister Softee Ice Cream truck, her character is hilariously jaded out of her mind.  I mean we even get freaking Cheech and Chong on this film! The cast is very well rounded out, it makes watching the film a pleasure.

But of course, the big draw here for me is that Scorcese directed the film. What I’ve always loved about Scorcese is how very New York he is. He is enamored with the city, same as Woody Allen is, can’t say I blame ‘em, the place can be rather magical, vibrant, alive. It is a beautiful city and a dark city; it can be the stuff of dreams or nightmares depending which corner you turn on. New York City's ambiguity is what  shines through so well in After Hours. You can meet a beautiful girl in a coffee shop in the middle of the night, but said girl can turn out to be a total head case. It’s these little details that the film has that make it such a New York film, the crazy taxi driver, the cold crazy people, the dark haunting city streets, the bums, the punks, the night clubs, the gay bars, the unexpectedly friendly people, the film effectively captures the dark beauty that was New York of the 80’s, I loved that about it, so my hats down to Scorcese for capturing New York City life so well, it’s something he’s gotten very good at through out his career. I mean, this is the director who made New York, New York (1977), Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980) and Mean Streets (1973) all of which take place in the big apple. Scorcese is without a doubt a director that displays his love for the city that never sleeps; he’s the most ‘New York’ director of all. The fact that the entire film was shot in New York City streets and entirely at night is what gives After Hours its unique look.

But aside from that, the film has these amazing camera shots, which is really what let’s us know there’s a master filmmaker behind the cameras, it’s little details, like when we follow these keys that someone throws from a building, or when Hackett’s twenty dollar bill flies out the taxi cabs window and the camera follows it. My favorite shot is the one with which the film ends, the camera simply sweeps through an office building filled with desks and computers and telephones…loved that. This is the camera work and direction that brings After Hours up for me, it elevates the film. So as you can see my friends, many things make this one special. After Hours is without a doubt an extremely underrated Scorcese film! Same as with Scorcese’s Bringing Out the Dead (1999), this is a film from Scorcese’s repertoire that many seems to be missing out on, but should definitely be seeing. Scorcese made After Hours in order to regain his love for filmmaking, you see, before making After Hours Scorcese had been trying to get The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) going, but had an incredibly hard time making it happen, until finally he let it go. He ended up making it anyways a few years later, but at the time, he was incredibly frustrated at the fact that apparently The Last Temptation of Christ was not going to happen. So he went on and made After Hours, to regain his love for making movies. His love and passion for the medium shows through in the film, this is a master storyteller giving it his best to make us laugh and achieving it, in a very artful stylish way. This is a wonderfully dark comedy.

Highly recommend it if you want to see one of these films that’s very paranoid, and fast, the film moves at a frenetic pace. It’s the kind of film that takes places during the small hours of the night, in these seedy places that are open when most of humanity is sound asleep. It’s a film that shows us that the freaks most certainly come out at night. Which is probably why Hackett is always shown running from someone, which was a nice motif I picked up while watching the film; that image of Hackett just running,  running from the freaks, from the crazies, from scary life. Paul Hackett is a character that just wants to ‘get home’ which reminds me that in some ways, this is a dark version of the Wizard of Oz, with it’s main character trying to get away from all the craziness and back to the comfort and warmth of home. By the way, the films connection to The Wizard of Oz is alluded to at one point in the film. But aside from wanting to get home, Hackett just wants to live, which I think is an awesome message in the film. He wants more out of life, can’t say I blame him for going after it even if it means going through hell.

Rating: 5 out of 5 



Unknown said...

Excellent review! I really dig this film also. It is kinda the East Coast answer to John Landis' INTO THE NIGHT but I prefer Scorsese's film for the reasons you stated. He is always keeping you on edge throughout the film as you wonder what's going to happen to the protagonist next and what weird person is he gonna cross paths with.

Franco Macabro said...

I'll have to check out Into the Night then, thanks for the recommendation, I love films like these, taking place during the night in a big bad city.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic review; I remember seeing this a year or so after it was released and thinking that it was probably one of the best comedies I'd seen in ages. Griffin Dunne is such an understated actor - he made this one work.

One small quibble - and I hate to be "that guy" - but AFTER HOURS was actually released in 1985, not 1988. Sorry to point that out.

Otherwise, top-notch!


Franco Macabro said...

I actually knew it was 1985, major typo there, sorry bout that, but glad you enjoyed the review! It instantly became one of my favorite comedies, looking forward to a rewatch soon.


Related Posts with Thumbnails