I was pumped to review this title, because it was one of the very few Scorsese films I hadn’t seen. I simply wasn’t hip to it yet. Scorsese’s filmography is massive, and I’d argue that After Hours has pretty much been buried under a sea of newer films and other classics of his own. It’s not a bad problem for Marty to have. Plus, as I’ve been trying to make sure to watch every film by the directors I idolize, I’ve found it’s the “low key” films that resonate with me the most.
After Hours is a dark comedy that takes you along for the night with computer data entry worker, Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne). He’s pretty much just another cog in the corporate system. Rolling through life, and I think he knows it. He seems really freaking bored.
A regular mundane day at work leads to him a meeting with a girl, Marcy (Rosanna Arquette), a roommate of a sculpture artist in the New York SoHo district. Paul’s attempt to get lucky sets him down a path of deep misfortune into the late night underworld of the city. A rag tag cast of erotic, exotic and strange night owls, club goers and shifters become intertwined, invested and even at opposition with Paul’s hopes to get back home. Don’t you just hate when it’s 1985 and the subway fare just got raised to a dollar fifty and you only have some change because your twenty flew out the cab window? Yeah, me too. Happens all the time.
It should be a regular night where you just go home. Go to bed, and be ready for the next day at work, and it almost was. But Paul takes that leap of faith to possibly go on a romantic adventure. Martin Scorsese has been known to describe this story as a metaphor for a dissension into hell.
This film and notably, Scorsese’s The King of Comedy (1982) have skyrocketed onto my favorite films list. Neither of which were box office hits at the time. In fact, The King of Comedy lost a ton of money. Perhaps that’s another reason why these titles receive little mainstream recognition. I can kind of see why The King of Comedy wouldn’t be too popular, as the performance by De Niro, though it’s lights out and hilarious, can be pretty uncomfortable to watch at times, especially rewatch. But to be quite honest, I’m not sure why After Hours isn’t talked about more.
I was hooked immediately. After Hours, to me, was a snapshot in time, displaying both the 80s and Scorsese’s eclipsing and imminent mastery post Raging Bull era. Underrated, underappreciated or just plain unheard of by the modern crowd, I see ‘After Hours’ as a lost gem for a new generation of film heads. It feels like a revival of sorts in style after a commercial failure in The King of Comedy. It’s quite fascinating to me to think that just five years later, GoodFellas would release. Thus beginning the era of the gangster/crime “epic” Scorsese that we’re more familiar with today. I’m happy I had a reason to dig through Amazon Prime and rent this one for a measly 3 bucks. So incredibly worth it.
Any Scorsese film is worth the watch, that’s hardly even worth saying. But there is something about this one that feels so much different than his other films, to me. Shorter and simpler by nature and budget, it has this energy to it that isn’t quite present in his other films. Marty here is showing us that he can make a fantastic film for very little money. The story is much smaller in scale compared to what you might expect him to tackle as well. Distilling down elements of his film game to their purest form here. The Scorsese trademark satire and/or comedy existing within paranoid, frustrated, angered or even violent scenarios, is still there but must exist in moments, feelings or dialogue rather than big set pieces. This film feels like it exists in it’s own realm of the “Scorsese-verse”. It’s not quite the quintessential Scorsese flick, but it has all the right ingredients.
Scorsese’s ability to choose music continues to amaze me. Give me an old school credit sequence before the film starts accompanied with Marty’s music choice and I’m dialed in. Soon after, I had fully invested myself in the misfortune of Paul. What I didn’t expect at the time was the immense want to rewatch it afterwards. I can’t help but feel like the film was trying to say something more.
Paul seems caught in a rat race; in his life, work and romantic endeavors. I believe there to be great symbolism found in the scene where a rat gets caught in the trap right in front of a beautifully lit and comfy looking bed. Sleep being one of the only things that Paul wants at this moment.
After Hours is quirky, it’s refreshing and there’s just something about going along with someone who is having a terrible go at it that is entertaining. Ultimately, the end will make you question the reality of the situation in ways you did not expect either.
It’s tragic at moments but it’s funny. You cannot help but laugh at the unluckiness. To sum it all up, as his misfortune is coming to a peak, hiding from an angry mob in a fire escape, Paul witnesses a murder through a window. He exclaims to himself, “I’ll probably get blamed for that”.
Verdict 4 out of 5
Filmed almost entirely at night, it reminds me of Scorsese’s Bringing Out the Dead (1999) stylistically. The cinematography is interesting and feels youthful compared to what Scorsese was doing prior to this film. On top of that, the performances are so solid. I wasn’t too sure who Griffin Dunne was before this, but I think he embodied his character perfectly. He’s slightly cocky but oddly sympathetic and hilarious. He’s a very relatable everyman character who problematically over-analyzes most situations he’s in, and to his own demise at times.
There’s a rough dark sided vibe to this film that brings out the funny aspects of it even more. I highly recommend it if you haven’t seen it in awhile or all together.
P.S. Cheech and Chong are in it. Enough said.