After Hours

After Hours ★★★½


Goes to show that I'm more familiar with Scorsese's sweeping gangster films or those films of his that deal with heavy, mature themes, i.e. Shutter Island or Silence, but—aside from the more kid-friendly Hugo—I haven't explored beyond what the renowned director has to offer in terms of his less-brutish material. Enter his 1985 film, After Hours, where we find a white-collar word processor reconsidering his dull life as an office worker as he trains a rookie who insists that they'd rather not be confined to a desk job all of their life. Forced to reconcile his life with those words from the trainee, Paul Hackett's (played brilliantly by Griffin Dunne whom I've oddly only run into his work as an actor here, though I am familiar with his reanimated corpse bit in Landis' An American Werewolf in London) eyes wander off, studying the stationery littering the desks of his nearby coworkers while his pupil runs off nondescript conversation. Paul excuses himself, leaves his high-rise office building and goes to a coffee shop where he meets Marcy Franklin (Rosanna Arquette), a seemingly nice girl who later invites him over to her place after the midnight hour. What ensues is a cavalcade of increasingly uncomfortable situations where Paul( who tries his best to diffuse them or rationalize them into simple peculiarities people may import—after having the misfortune of losing his only $20 bill out his taxi window) finds his date to not be entirely becoming, and so he sets off into the rainy streets of New York City's SoHo district looking to return home so he can sleep. In what can only be described as a black comedy quasi-adaptation of Homer's The Odyssey (Paul's Penelope being his bed), Paul stumbles into situation after situation, meeting an array of idiosyncratic characters who at first offer kindness only to turn on a dime and reveal their mania. Catherine O'Hara, John Heard, Teri Garr, and even Cheech and Chong, all appear here to, in one way or another, stonewall Paul's attempts to get home. He's tried the subway, but the fare increases after midnight—his loose change is not enough. He's taken the offer of a good-natured bartender to give him the money for it, but the neighborhood suspicion of burglary and the startlingly coincidental truth behind the bartender's relation to one of Paul's recent engagements leaves him stranded, leading to successive miscommunications and more outlandish encounters. Works for a while, this repeated confrontation with the bizarre, but the effect wears off as we enter the final half, especially after there's a built-in expectation that each subsequent chance meeting will somehow turn on its head. Scorsese is as nimble as ever with the camera; those dexterous, speedy camera movements that maneuver across the 180° line as a character changes the direction their facing to look at some new unsettling arrival of something perilous, and those smooth whip pans and fast zooms—all calling to his pervasive style that persists through his work. Gotta say, despite my reservations in dealing out more positivity toward this (as I like this very much already), that its objective to discombobulate its audiences through escalated awkwardness is great. Mid-tier Scorsese (better still, a different side of the director) undoubtedly, but that is in no way a bad place to be positioned.

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