Oct. 1, 2007

After Hours (1985)
Grade: 52/100

Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Griffin Dunne, Rosanna Arquette, Linda Fiorentino

What it's about. Set in Soho, New York City. Paul (Griffin Dunne) is a self-involved young man who lands a hot date with pretty, friendly, and moderately eccentric Marcy (Rosanna Arquette). She lives with plain-spoken hottie sculptress Linda Fiorentino.

Paul's date goes awry, but since he has no money, he has trouble getting back home. He meets a few Good Samaritans who try to help him, and these include bartender John Heard, Miss Beehive 1965 (Teri Garr), and lonely alternative artist Verna Bloom. Paul also meets Miss Wrong, Catherine O'Hara, who ends up leading a vigilante mob against him, under the suspicion he's responsible for a string of burglaries, which are actually being committed by Cheech and Chong.

How others will see it. After Hours has a strong cult following. The cast includes a number of familiar character actors, three of which are quite attractive. What the film really has going for it is Scorsese, who ranks among the most acclaimed directors of all time. Not that Scorcese creates any cinema magic here, but things that are expected are sometimes believed despite strong evidence to the contrary.

Some people will take sadistic pleasure in Paul's travails, in the guise of feeling sympathy for him. Paul is, in the end, immobilized in a sculpture, the perfect consummation of his futile actions and feelings of helplessness. Perhaps he should have been left there, but no one likes a dark ending, even those who enjoyed his suffering throughout.

How I felt about it. After Hours has a minor quirky charm about it. In a way, it is partly a parody of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Paul can't get away, he can't get any sleep, and one by one, they're all after him. And he feels his life is at stake. Fortunately, all of humanity is not at risk, only the skin of a mildly sniveling man who doesn't have the sense to carry an ATM card or a wad of twenties when he is out on the town.

He also lacks the sense to be nice to his date. If she has burns, it's none of his business, and certainly is no reason to treat her like a telemarketer who calls at 3 A.M.

But if things don't work out with Marcy, at least there's other fish in the sea, even though they're older and less attractive. Paul can't get home, but he gets picked up by three more women in a single night, even though he looks nothing like a professional basketball player. Teri Garr is the cutest, but she may be psychotic, or a least overly clingy. Then there's O'Hara, who doesn't seem to realize that a burglar has transportation, and Verna Bloom, who is amazed that someone would actually want to dance with her.

But the soundtrack does have some great, obscure oldies. I've haven't heard Rosie & the Originals' "Angel Baby" for years, probably since the last time I saw this film. The sardonic Peggy Lee mini-comeback hit, "Is That All There Is", is also a good fit for the film's theme.