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About Last Night

February 14, 2014
About Last Night

David Mamet’s play, Sexual Perversity in Chicago already got an adaptation in 1986’s About Last Night…. But, as relatively few people remember the version with Rob Lowe — looking almost exactly the same as he does on Parks and Recreation — a new production is welcome. This version of About Last Night gives us Michael Ealy in the Rob Lowe part, and Kevin Hart in Jim Belushi’s shoes because, well, why the hell not?

For those who don’t remember the lesser Brat Pack films, Danny (Ealy) and Bernie (Hart) are two single friends, this time in Los Angeles. Danny is still hesitant about dating after the end of a tumultuous relationship, but Bernie keeps pushing him. Yes, this sounds like part of the setup of That Awkward Moment, but Leslye Headland adapts Mamet’s play and Tim Kazurinsky’s previous screenplay with far more wit and insight in each scene than was evidenced in that entire movie.

Bernie drags Danny along when he meets up with Joan (Regina Hall), who has brought her own not-a-date friend, Debbie (Joy Bryant). Bernie and Joan get sloppy drunk and rush off to a bathroom hookup, leaving the bemused Danny and Debbie to themselves. A one-night stand turns into a budding relationship between the two, while Bernie and Joan quickly turn to recriminations and backbiting.

As an update, About Last Night feels fresh and current, but without going for silly cultural references. Hart is zany and funny, but it comes through his take on the underlying character rather than by carving out space for his own schtick. As the leading couple, Ealy and Bryant provide two wonderfully realized and textured people, navigating their way through the difficulties of a relationship. This is still Mamet’s play at heart, and it offers just as incisive a commentary as ever.

And why shouldn’t it? It’s a shame that some prospective audiences may see the cast and mentally shelve About Last Night as “just another African-American relationship movie”, and in the process cheat themselves out of a great film. There’s nothing essentially black about these characters’ experiences and relationships; their struggles are universal. And though the same is true of plenty of other “Black Cinema” films, there’s even less of a connection here to some notion of the African-American experience. If a white viewer cannot see something of him or herself in these characters the way we have for decades insisted that black viewers see themselves in the legions of lily-white casts parading across the silver screen, then the fault is certainly not in these stars.

Worth It: yes.
Bechdel Test: pass.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. mgpogue permalink
    February 14, 2014 12:27

    Reblogged this on The TV Media Junkie ReBlog Blog.

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