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Hosted in an affable, charming auditorium of Alamo Drafthouse’s new Brooklyn branch, All Nighter strived to represent itself as the kind of movie that naturally belongs in the cinephilic quarters of the Austin-based chain. It’s fresh, plush and flowing with booze—exactly the kind of backdrop you’d want when seeing a movie starring the terrifying, albeit hilarious J.K. Simmons (Whiplash) and the timidly amusing Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild).
Returning to their comedic roots, both Simmons and Hirsch do a commendable job bringing life to this rehashed comedic oppressive-father-bullies-timorous-boyfriend genre. Coupled with well-suited supporting roles from former SNL cast member Taran Killam and Last Man on Earth star Kristen Schaal, All Nighter is a praiseworthy feature from Gavin Weisen, who has taken a softer, more light-hearted approach in his sophomore attempt.
All Nighter opens on a narratively quintessential awkward dinner between the bearded banjo-playing Martin (Emile Hirsch), his sweet girlfriend Ginnie (Analeigh Tipton), and her intimidating, hawk-eyed father, Mr. Gallo (J.K. Simmons). As one would expect, the successful jet setting father is utterly uninspired by the sheepish Martin. His daughter’s boyfriend can’t drink wine (because of his allergy to sulfides), doesn’t like steak, and rolls his eyes at the mainstream success (and money) of Mumford & Sons—all to the ire of the hard-nosed Mr. Gallo.
Six months have passed since the disastrous dinner and Martin is a mess. Having been dumped by Ginnie nearly four months ago, Martin is still devastated, depressed and shuttered. All of a sudden, Mr. Gallo comes rapping on the door, looking for his daughter. With no luck calling or texting her cellphone, the suit-clad, Audi-driving Mr. Gallo recruits the reluctant Martin to help him look for Ginnie.
From the perpetually bickering Roberta (Kristen Schaal) and Gary (Taran Killam) in Echo Park to the ear-piercing clubs of West Hollywood, Mr. Gallo and Martin are forced to spend the next twenty-four hours together as they go traipsing around LA looking for the missing Ginnie. After a few zany situations, a couple of fights and a broken law or two, a kindling friendship is born between the unlikely duo. And by early morning, the two begin to realize that they are the ones in need, not Ginnie.
Gavin Weisen’s last feature, The Art of Getting By, is a similar coming-of-age tale, one that is anchored in the optimistic, yet sorrowfully nihilistic world of high school. It seems that in his second picture, Weisen has seen his protagonist George Zinavoy graduate indeed and become this kind-hearted bohemian that we see today. Gone are the meandering questions around existential crises. While lost love and unfulfilled dreams are still a mainstay of All Nighter’s narrative, those elements play more like The Graduate than Igby Goes Down.
There’s a hopefulness that is intangible yet unmistakably palpable in Weisen’s new film. Transporting himself from the dreary, cold, monochromatic tones of New York to the sunny, optimistic and charming boulevards of Los Angeles, Weisen is exploring the sanguine side of himself that relishes the comedy, the fun and the zaniness. And with the great casting of Simmons and Hirsch, the film relishes in its ability to explore the wacky and goofy. From Simmons’ Donald Trump-inspired spray tan to Hirsch’s slouched, cardigan-clad frame, All Nighter fights to make even the subtle stand out in this clichéd comedy.
Coupled with the decent screenplay from Seth W. Owen (who strangely enough, wrote the dreadful sci-fi flick Morgan), All Nighter excels in being exactly the kind of movie it tries to be—an entertaining and funny one. And with a wonderfully talented, hilarious and charismatic cast, Wiesen’s newest feature is an improvement over his first. While there are unnecessarily kitschy, emotional monologues for the powerhouse Simmons, the venerable actor does what he can to add emotionality and depth to the stale speeches.
Verdict: 3 out of 5
With suitable direction from Wiesen, an adequate script from Owen and a wonderfully hilarious supporting cast, All Nighter is a movie that doesn’t try too hard to be funny—a quality that works in its favor. And while the moments of tackiness can at times suck the laughs out of the room, the talented Simmons and charming Hirsch do their best to maintain the focus of the film and to keep the humor going. Thanks to the starring duo, All Nighter is a worthy comedy film that should be commended for its efforts to rehash an old premise.