I was really rooting for About Last Night. Rom-coms are at the bottom of the movie genre totem pole, but this movie really seemed like it might be something I could enjoy. It had homages, humor and a semi-realistic plot, but it squanders it all on a generic and vapid ending.
This romantic comedy, which is a remake of the 1986 film of the same name (which is actually based on a 1974 play, Sexual Perversity in Chicago), trades out the previous film’s all-white cast for a predominantly black cast. The movie starts with the inseparable bro-duo of Bernie (Kevin Hart) and Danny (Michael Ealy) going out for a night on the town. Crass and rambunctious Bernie falls for the equally unrefined Joan (Regina Hall). The more reserved Danny falls for his equal (and Joan’s friend), Debbie (Joy Bryant). The movie then follows both sets of relationships through their ups and their downs.
I will start with the positives of this movie. First, it is actually a pretty funny movie. It is no secret that Kevin Hart is a funny person, and he delivers. The problem with Kevin Hart is that if you leave him as a freestanding comedian, his jokes often become banal. That is why it was so great that Michael Ealy masterfully balanced out their bromance. And on the girl’s side, Regina Hall is ridiculously funny too.
Another great thing about this movie is the cinematography. Usually, rom-coms are not renowned for their cinematography, but this movie did a really nice job. The scene transitions, which started as illustrations and transformed into real-life images, gave the movie a light feel (not unlike 500 Days of Summer). And the ending scene, with the couple superimposed as silhouettes in front of a fountain, was moving.
Where this movie goes wrong is what makes watching it so frustrating. In a later scene, Debbie questions Danny about whether their romance was true or just an “extended one-night-stand.” This is a surprisingly perceptive question coming from a rom-com and could be asked in many other movies in this genre. It really calls into question the whole courtship narrative that is presented. In this movie, the order is as follows: one-night-stand, more sleepovers, eventually moving in together, more sex and finally saying “I love you” to the other person. Unfortunately, if you were expecting this movie to address this pertinent issue, they do not. Marriage is never mentioned, except in a demeaning way (Danny’s ex insultingly says that he’ll end up with a wife and two kids in the suburbs) and the boundaries of fidelity are quite undefined. In fact, both Danny and Debbie refuse trysts to show how they are committed to each other, but this ends up being the source of their biggest fight. Also, children are completely removed from this movie (a pet peeve of mine) and even more annoyingly, the movie uses a dog as a child substitute. The way they address money in this movie is the most unrealistic aspect. Danny is supposed to be hard-working, but financially-constrained. This seems ridiculous when you see how nice his apartment is (in L.A. for that matter) and this supposed “money trouble” is added only for plot color.
The movie’s fights feel real, but the reconciliations were uninspiring. About Last Night addressed some of the most pressing issues in today’s relationships, but then abandons its opportunity to say something impactful for a trite ending. Maybe I expect too much from a rom-com released on Valentine’s Day, but I have little love for unoriginality.