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TAGLINE: What if that date you thought would never end, didn't?


Before I get into Martin Scorsese's movie AFTER HOURS (1985); a story. I once worked with this guy Bob who liked Danielle, another employee. Bob expressed interest in her drawings, so she brought them in to show him. We all knew Bob couldn't give a shit about Danielle's drawings, but when he looked at them, he said things like "I can't believe how great these are!" and "You are so talented!" It was pitiful and transparent...and the same thing any guy would say to get into Danielle's pants. It didn't work for Bob. It rarely works, but we do it anyway, because all guys are Bob. All guys are Poor Dumb Schmucks. Speaking of which:

Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne) sits in his unsatisfying job where he's training someone who actually tells him he won't be staying with the company much longer. When Paul leaves his office building, two custodians in matching jumpsuits close the gigantic gates behind him. It's as if he was released from Shawshank. Bromidic Paul needs to breakout, but as is well known, some inmates don't survive on the outside.

He stops at an eatery where he spots a woman, Marcy (Rosanna "Why hasn't anyone written a song about me this week?" Arquette), sitting alone. Seeing an opportunity (easier, as they bond on the book he is reading - TROPIC OF CANCER), he makes his move with some awkward talk about Henry Miller. And like my ex-co-worker Bob, Paul pretends to be interested in buying a bagel paperweight from Kiki (Linda Fiorentino), a sculptress whose loft Marcy is staying at. All would have been fine if Paul would have just gone home, but instead the Poor Dumb Schmuck, in hopes of getting laid, calls Marcy. This act sets off a Rube Goldberg chain of events that gets more preposterous (in a fun way) as the evening wears on. And like Dorothy over the rainbow, his journey won't be so easy.

Nearly everyone who crosses his path seems to want to help Paul, but ends up turning on him.
Among these neurotic nocturnal nutcases are John Heard (his kicking-the-register scene makes me laugh out loud), the comically delicious Catherine O'Hara as Gail who is an ice cream vendor with an obnoxious view of playfulness, Will Patton (most memorable as Gene Hackman's wingman in NO WAY OUT) as Kiki's leather-vested friend Horst and Teri Garr as waitress Julie, with go-go dancer chic and an apartment to match (witness the lava lamp, inflatable lips and cans of Aqua Net...and just wait'll you see what she keeps by her bed).

Also making things hard on Paul are Richard Anthony Marin and Thomas B. Kin Chong, a/k/a Cheech & Chong, who provide the rhythm of the film. Oh! And horror film ubiqui-tite Dick Miller plays the diner guy! Miller can be seen in four billion movies, largely because it is considered good luck to cast him in your film. Just ask Tarantino, Cameron, Dante, Scorsese, and especially Corman.

I've always loved Griffin Dunne. Maybe it's because he produced and had a small part in CHILLY SCENES OF WINTER, a sleeper film I adore. Or maybe because he and producing partner Amy Robinson were customers at the video store I worked at. Or maybe it's because he always gives just the right amount of acting, not too much, not too little. He was so much fun in AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and other movies, though I never did see his performance in ME AND HIM, where he plays a guy whose penis talks to him. How did I miss that? Never mind that, how did I not sue?


Roseanna Arquette was on fire from DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN out only months earlier. Her portrayal of Marcy is spot on. I mean, who hasn't known a ditz'n'damaged girl like this? Arquette must have, because she sure nailed it. It makes you want to scream, "Paul! I know you want to get some Marcy-tail, but...run!!!" CASTING NOTE: John Heard and Catherine O'Hara would later play Macauley Culkin's parents in HOME ALONE.


So much of AFTER HOURS comedy is dry and lo-fi, like when Paul suspects Marcy of being a burn victim only to have her enter seconds later holding a candle with a ridiculously high flame. Or when Paul goes to take the subway home and the subway clerk informs him that the fare went up at midnight and won't let him pass. Paul begs him, "Who'd know?" The clerk responds, "I could go to a party, get drunk, talk to someone, who knows?" Another great moment, towards the end, when Paul's just about given up on life. He puts a quarter in the jukebox, and seconds later, from the speakers in the empty bar - Peggy Lee's IS THAT ALL THERE IS?

Then there are the more overt moments, like when the events of the night hit a crescendo, and Paul witnesses through a window, a la Hitchcock, a woman shooting a man multiple times. After a beat, he says to himself, "I'll probably get blamed for that." Another bright spot is Arquette's monologue about her ex-husband, a WIZARD OF OZ freak who would yell out "Surrender Dorothy!" when he orgasms. Toldya Paul was Dorothy.

If you ever wondered what it would be like if Scorsese made a student film, I mean, besides the student films he made when he was a student, this is your movie. It was, from what I've read and heard, exhilarating for Marty, whose AFTER HOURS experience confirmed that not every picture has to be a huge shoot with big budgets and even bigger actors.
He was hungry to go back to his beginnings, like, say, MEAN STREETS. In fact, AFTER HOURS was made only because THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST was killed (he'd go on and make it three years later). But don't let the fact that this relatively short (eight weeks) shoot make you think it was easy. AFTER HOURS is a deceptively complicated film. For one, it was almost entirely a night shoot, from sundown to sun-up. Also, Scorsese had storyboarded all 600 shots, the final one (in the film) being the antecedent to the Copa Shot in GOODFELLAS. Though a few of the deleted scenes are on the DVD (I thought they were all funny), they ended up cutting at least 45 minutes out for pacing's sake. Killing your babies is probably a good idea in a movie like this.

Personally, I'd much rather see Scorsese make more movies like this instead of, well, anything he's made in the last 20 years (see my uncontrollable Scorsese rant here). A personal story where we get to watch things happen to an average guy, instead of Daniel Day Lewis with a funny mustache, DiCaprio with a funny accent, or De Niro with yet another gun.

AFTER HOURS has become a bit of a time capsule. Two leathery guys making out and groping at the bar was a bit more rare in a 1985 film than today. Hell, gay bars, or gays for that matter, and S & M clubs were rug-swept topics. Today's noses won't smell AFTER HOURS' 1980's New York City, specifically, SoHo.

Watching this movie again, 25 years later, made me realize how ahead of its time AFTER HOURS was. There weren't many films made with a character like this; an everyman sad sack who spirals downward, usually because of themselves. Perhaps Jaques Tati and Peter Sellers. But since then, we've had Steve Carell, Ricky Gervais, Larry David, and on and on. Not to mention the too many teen movies where a guy, trying to get a girl, gets himself into more and more trouble. I suppose the formula's been around since the caves, but for me, AFTER HOURS was one of the first ones to work so well. Maybe because instead of going for the laughs, they went for the tone. It's not a balls out comedy. In fact, the comedy is subtle and mildly absurdist.


I suppose it would be remiss of me to not mention the lawsuit AFTER HOURS got slapped with. From what I understand, writer Joseph Minion cribbed the whole set-up (first third of the movie) from radio personality Joe Frank's story called LIES. I don't know how this could have happened, unless Minion lied about LIES (he didn't...I think Minion's script was actually called LIES). Maybe he never thought he'd sell the script, and when he did, he never thought they'd make the movie. Or maybe he just never thought to tell anyone, and no one would notice. But Frank noticed, and although he still gets no writing credit, he's said to have been paid well (read: paid off).

AFTER HOURS is more than an all-nightmare of events. Like the night itself, there are things lurking out there that we never notice. This is what can happen when we step out of our comfortable (or dull) lives to pull back the Wizard's curtain.


By the way, remember my co-workers Bob and Danielle? Well, here's how that story ended. Bob turned out to be a major asshole, and I ended up going out with Danielle. The moral of my story is the same as the one in AFTER HOURS - Don't be a Poor Dumb Schmuck. Be yourself. Not Bob.

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