After Hours

After Hours ★★★★½

This review has some spoilers but nothing that comes close to ruining the film. 


Who the hell is Griffin Dunne and why haven't I seen him in anything before? Scorsese really managed to get some stellar performances in his films, blimey, and Dunne's endlessly sympathetic portrayal of Paul - an office-working everyman having the worst night of his life - is undoubtedly one of them. In fact, it's one of my favourite performances in any comedy ever. The film has a very low-key sense of humour, never aiming for grand bursts of hilarity but instead drawing chuckles and disbelieving grins from surreal situations and, most effectively, Dunne's exasperated and totally believable line delivery. My favourite moment in the film was the protagonist witnessing a murder through some windows from across the street. His initial reaction is entirely appropriate, recoiling in horror and exclaiming "oh god!", but after a few seconds he becomes aware of his larger circumstances again, and dryly mutters "I'll probably be blamed for that", before quickly dashing off on his unmerry way. Given the prior context, it'd be a great line delivered by any actor, but Dunne's crestfallen delivery had me howling. The other thing he, and the movie as a whole, does so well is acknowledge how ridiculous the movie's plot is (without obnoxiously breaking the fourth wall). There's a great scene where Paul jumps up and tells a somewhat confused man all that has transpired, pacing around the room erratically, totally in his own headspace. Dunne stutters and slams, struggling to even get some of the words out while powering through others, so confused about the events himself that he can hardly believe them either. This could make for an excellent monologue sequence, but Scorsese heightens the comedy by transitioning throughout Paul's story to drive home how long-winded it is. Instead of merely laughing at Paul recounting things we already know, we're laughing at the fact that Paul's even trying to recount them, and at all how long it's taking him to do so. After Hours may seem slight compared to some of the undisputed classics in Scorsese's canon, but it's still full of the masterful filmmaking and attention to detail that he brings to those more popular efforts. 

The film does take a little while to get going (the first act is extremely dry), but the only thing that really held me back from loving it is the manner in which suicide factors into the plot. It's an issue I'm pretty sensitive towards and one that I personally don't feel should be laughed about. Having an emotionally unstable rape-victim commit suicide in a (admittedly dark) comedy didn't sit well with me, especially when scenes concerning it are sandwiched between more ridiculous humour and even an appearance by Cheech & Chong. Fortunately, the remainder of the film is so wild and well-done that I couldn't be bothered by it as much as I otherwise would, the moment limited to just a (pretty big) tonal misstep in an otherwise great movie, as opposed to a total enjoyment wrecker. I'm choosing to look past it and give the film an otherwise super enthusiastic 9/10

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