It’s the second cinematic go-around for David Mamet’s 1974 play, “Sexual Perversity in Chicago.”
The 1980s version was a peak into the lives of yuppified twenty-somethings played by pretty people Demi Moore and Rob Lowe.
The new version, in theatres this weekend, changes the location form Chi-Town to Los Angeles, focusing on singles in their 30s. The story hasn’t changed that much, just the faces; this time around the pretty people are played by Michael Ealy, Regina Hall, Kevin Hart and Joy Bryant.
The story focuses on two couples. Danny (Ealy) and Debbie (Bryant) and Bernie (Hart) and Joan (Hall). The former are lonely hearts who find one another, but don’t discover the passion needed to sustain their relationship. The latter are all passion with no firm commitment outside of kinky sex and “No you didn’t!” one-liners.
Like the original film the story is organized around various holidays and seasons and follows most of the same plot points but that’s where the similarity ends. Keep in mind, this isn’t a remake of David Mamet’s play, it’s a remake of a movie that was based on Mamet’s play, so there is no reverence for the tone established by one of America’s leading playwrights.
The easy sentimentality of the 1986 film has been replaced by raunchy jokes and situations, and if it is possible for a film, outside of the kind that play at The Pussycat Theatre, to have too many sex scenes, “About Last Night” is that movie. Instead of plot we’re handed sex scenes, but the kind of sex scenes that happen under blankets and reveal nothing, physically or story wise.
The story relies on the characters to maintain interest, but although they intersect—one of the movie’s stylish twists is the intercutting of scenes between the men and women to highlight their similarities and contrast their differences—the two couples seem to be from different movies.
Hart and Hall appear to be making a farce, while Ealy and Bryant are entrenched in a more sentimental—and duller—film. Hart and Hall have enough personality to make up for the dreary pretty people, but your enjoyment of the film overall may well be linked to your capacity for Kevin Hart’s wild antics.
“About Last Night” is frisky and a little freaky, but not as funny or insightful as it thinks it is.
“You’re a con artist,” wrote Karina Halle in Sins & Needles. “A liar. A thief. An unredeemable soul.”
She might also have added to that colourful list really interesting movie character.
As despicable as flim flam artists may be, there is no denying they make good film subjects.
This weekend in American Hustle, Christian Bale plays Irving Rosenfeld, a con man forced to help the FBI ensnare a group of corrupt politicians in the ABSCAM sting operation.
Although American Hustle director David O. Russell says his film is a fictionalized account of events, the ABSCAM operation was headline news in the early 1980s and Hollywood took notice.
In 1982 director Louis Malle was making plans for a May start date on an ABSCAM film called Moon Over Miami starring Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi. Belushi was to play Melvin Weinberg, based on the same man as Bale’s character in American Hustle.
The movie was scuttled following Belushi’s death in March of that year.
That con man film never saw the light of day, but many others have.
Everyone knows The Sting and The Grifters, but lesser seen is David Mamet’s The Spanish Prisoner, a complicated story starring Campbell Scott as Joe Ross, a man who invents a process “to control the world market.” Concerned that he will not be properly compensated for his work he contacts Jimmy Dell (Steve Martin), a wealthy businessman who offers to help. Little does Ross know that he has just stepped into a world of deception that will change his life.
Steve Martin’s performance in The Spanish Prisoner was Oscar worthy, but it wasn’t the first time he played a confidence man on film.
In the comedy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels he starred opposite Michael Caine as a scruffy con man trying to muscle in on some high end business on the French Riviera. Caine’s suave grifter makes a bet with Martin. Whoever can con Soap Queen Janet Colgate (Glenne Headley) first will walk away with $50,000.
The movie was written for Mick Jagger and David Bowie who were looking to do a project together after the success of their Dancing in the Street video. The rock stars dropped out before cameras rolled — Bowie later said both were, “a bit tweezed that we lost out on a script that could have been reasonably good” — and replaced by Martin and Caine whose hilarious performances earned the movie a spot on Bravo’s 100 Funniest Movies list.