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With: Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, Regina Hall, Joy Bryant, Christopher McDonald, Adam Rodriguez, Joe Lo Truglio, Paula Patton
Written by: Leslye Headland, based on a screenplay by Tim Kazurinsky, Denise DeClue, and on a play by David Mamet
Directed by: Steve Pink
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, language and brief drug use
Running Time: 100
Date: 02/14/2014
IMDB

About Last Night (2014)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Modern Love

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In 1986, when director Edward Zwick brought David Mamet's play Sexual Perversity in Chicago to the big screen, the title had to be changed to the completely innocuous About Last Night, because the word "sexual" was deemed to scary for audiences; they might think the film was pornographic or something.

Now, 28 years later, comes the remake, and the safe title remains. I'm not sure what that means, except that audiences are probably still as hung up on sex as they ever were, if perhaps a little less so. Certainly the new movie has its share of frank sex talk, even if it's a bit shy about the act itself. It's not exactly "perverse."

What's really surprising is how good this remake is. Aside from the title, and the presence of the obnoxious Kevin Hart, the movie initially had the drawback of a white director, Steve Pink, in charge of an all-black cast; not that this is a bad thing within itself, but it is another annoying trend from the 1980s -- and even the 1970s -- that hasn't seemed to change much, despite the presence of many more black filmmakers out there looking for work. But that's a matter for another essay.

About Last Night begins on Bernie (Hart) and his date Joan (Regina Hall). Bernie and Joan are loud, carefree, and carnal. Joan invites her pretty, sweet roommate Debbie (Joy Bryant) out for drinks, and Bernie invites his best boy, Danny (Michael Ealy, from the Barbershop movies). Embarrassed by their friends, Danny and Debbie leave together, and hit it off.

The movie follows them over the course of about a year, from a period of sexual bliss, to the excitement of moving in together, to first fights, getting a dog, feelings of being trapped, ignoring one another, and breaking up. Meanwhile, Bernie and Joan break up and continue to fight like crazy, but their rage and hatred turns into sexual energy and they keep sleeping together.

Regardless of color, Steve Pink is the man for the job. He's a member of John Cusack's club, having co-written the great Grosse Pointe Blank and High Fidelity and directed the fun Hot Tub Time Machine, and he knows a little something about relationship angst. In About Last Night, he adopts a quick, snappy pace, using sharp cuts, combining dialogue from one moment to another. The movie moves well, landing a good joke and moving on to a moment of heartbreak just a moment later.

Paula Patton has a great couple of scenes, playing Danny's much-fussed over ex-girlfriend Alison, who shows up again now that he's seeing someone new. Patton does something amazing with her voice -- kind of a husky purr -- that makes her somehow nearly irresistible, and extremely dangerous. Viewers suddenly move unequivocally into Danny's corner. Christopher McDonald also has a nice role as a bartender, an old friend of Danny's late father, who helps out.

Yes, the movie is good. It's smart, involving, and honest. It's funny, and sexy. It embraces messy, uncertain emotions. Hollywood movies often forget what people are actually like, and About Last Night remembers.

The Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment highlights bold city colors, and the audio brings the music through fine and clear. There three short extras with interviews with the cast and crew (no Steve Pink, though). We also get a "man on the street" featurette with ordinary people giving us their relationship advice. And finally, there are trailers for this and other Sony releases.

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