After Hours

After Hours ★★★½

"You know I just wanted to leave my apartment and maybe meet a nice girl, and now I've gotta die for it, you know!"

Given that I'm a serial admirer of one-night films, films by Martin Scorsese and films shot on location in New York City, it's somewhat of a surprise to me that I'm not more taken with After Hours.

The film centers on a grueling night for Paul (Griffin Dunne), an unlikable yuppie who thinks he's stumbled onto a cozy booty call with the unstable Marcy (Rosanna Arquette). However, he surreptitiously abandons the encounter when he gets the impression that Marcy may have disfiguring burns on her body. Having lost most of his money in the cab heading to Marcy's, Paul is unable to cover the newly increased subway fare and seeks refuge from the pouring rain in a local bar, where immediately another strange woman inexplicably becomes fixated on the dull word processor, this time a drained waitress named Julie (a hilarious Teri Garr). Tom the barman offers to give Paul the subway fare but is suddenly unable to open the cash register. Thus he and Paul exchange keys so that Paul can go to Tom's apartment and retrieve the key to the register. Catching a glimpse of a sculpture by Marcy's roommate Kiki in the possession of two strange men, Paul attempts to address them whereupon they flee. Paul then takes the sculpture back to Marcy's apartment where he finds her dead from an overdose of sleeping pills.

A distressingly unshaken Paul then returns to the temporarily closed bar, then briefly to Julie's apartment and finally back to the bar once Tom returns. Almost immediately Tom receives a call informing him that his girlfriend (Marcy!) has committed suicide. With the vibe now in tatters, Paul once agains entertains a dalliance with Julie in her apartment only to abort the tryst a second time. From here Paul heads to Club Berlin ostensibly to break the news about Marcy to Kiki, but he flees when a group of punks try to shave his head into a mohawk. Paul thinks he has at last found respite in the pleasant Mister Softee vendor Gail (Catherine O'Hara who nearly steals the whole film), but she eventually mistakes him for a thief responsible for a string of local burglaries and organizes a makeshift lynch mob to terrorize him through the streets of SoHo. But not to worry, ultimately Paul is saved by yet another mysterious woman (another sculptor no less).

Made in the wake of the commercially disastrous The King of Comedy, there is a slight whiff of hackwork to me in After Hours. The screenplay by Joseph Minion is not only convoluted but asks the viewer to maintain sustained interest in a pretty wearisome character. Furthermore Griffin Dunne is not the most charming subject to spend a hundred minutes with. What passes for the film's saving grace is the enlivening cinematography, the dynamic product of the first of seven collaborations between Scorsese and longtime Rainer Werner Fassbinder DP Michael Ballhaus.

Some stray notes:
-JUST WAITING TO BE DISCOVERED
-MY HUSBAND WAS A MOVIE FREAK
-EVERYTHING MAKES YOU SICK, MARCY
-I WON'T EVEN TAKE THE TRAIN
-WHAT ARE THESE GUYS, SAILORS?
-YOU LIKE THE MONKEYS?
-I SEE, THAT'S OUT THEN
-I'LL PROBABLY GET BLAMED FOR THAT
-THE UGLIER THE ART, THE MORE IT'S WORTH

In my New York movies ranked list.

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