About Last Night: Flawed but enjoyable

Michael Ealy and Joy Bryant in About Last Night.

There's a scene in About Last Night — a loose remake of the 1986 film of the same name which was, in turn, a loose adaptation of David Mamet's play Sexual Perversity in Chicago — where Danny (Michael Ealy) takes Debbie (Joy Bryant) on a date to a Dodgers game after repeatedly boasting that he has great seats. (This version of the story is set in Los Angeles and is not very perverse.)

At the ballpark, we see them sitting in the nose-bleed section with no other fans anywhere near to them. Debbie politely asks why they don't move closer to the crowd. Danny then explains that those particular seats have been held by his family for decades. Debbie is touched by his display of love and loyalty to his family and looks at Danny with increased affection.

A sweet moment, but wait a minute ... how would this have played out in real life? Most likely Danny would have proudly told the story during the drive to the ballpark. If not, he would surely have explained it as the couple was tromping upward past row after row of empty seats. What Danny most certainly would not have done was drag his new girlfriend to the upper reaches of a deserted bleacher and not offer any explanation until he was asked.

Such behavior could only occur in MovieLand, where Danny and Debbie are beamed Star Trek-style directly into their seats, where they will stay just long enough to deliver a magic moment to the audience before being beamed to the next scene.

That's the problem with About Last Night. Too many moments and too many situations feel contrived. I get artistic license, but a more naturalistic screenplay might have allowed me to feel more involved with the characters.

Despite the distancing script devices, there are pleasures to be had. The cast is talented and appealing, the balance between comedy and romance is well-maintained for the most part and writer Leslye Headland takes a trite sitcom setup midway through the story — Danny is visited by his ex-girlfriend while Debbie is away — and saves it by allowing Danny to behave like a reasonable adult. Director Steve Pink (Hot Tub Time Machine) offers a visual valentine to LA that suits the story nicely.

The counterpoints to Ealy and Bryant's introverted Danny and Debbie are their raucous friends Bernie and Joan, played by Kevin Hart and Regina King. The manic Hart, whose career is going through the roof right now, can be exhausting, but he manages to keep his often raunchy comic scenes in high gear while remaining recognizably human.

About Last Night is flawed but enjoyable. The production earns bonus points for a scene where Danny and Debbie debate whether the Rob Lowe and Demi Moore film they're watching on TV is a "chick movie" or a "dude movie." What they don't mention is that the flick in question is the 1986 version of About Last Night.


Ed Johnson-Ott has been NUVO's lead film critic for more than 20 years.

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