Jonathan White’s review published on Letterboxd:
Back in my mid-twenties, when I saw After Hours in the theatre, I just loved it. I seem to remember it being fresh and perfect, and most importantly darkly hilarious. It’s been at least a few decades since I’d revisited it. Aside from the close to final scene, where our protagonist is ‘dropped off’ I had very little memory of it.
The first thing that struck me on this re-watch was the opening credits. A simple cut-cut-cut to music style that evoked the techniques of Kubrick and Allen. A small thing, but it tweaked in me the thought that after churning out critical and audience darlings like Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, and Raging Bull … all hard hitting gritty dramas, and then turning on a dime with a masterfully comedic satire of celebrity, The King of Comedy, Scorsese was probably thinking himself an auteur, and that his credits should reflect that.
Our story turns on the conceit that our nebbish uptown boy protagonist, word processing professional Paul Hackett, by coincidence of being in the right place, at the right time, reading the right book late one night has a potential opportunity to get lucky with a sexy and mysterious downtown girl, Marcy.
Coincidence and luck define the late night ride that Paul and we the audience find ourselves on.
I loved taking that ride again, but was bothered how Scorsese and writer joseph Minion were playing rather fast and loose with Paul’s moral centre. We’re introduced to him as a schlubby everyman who might have just won the lottery meeting Marcy. Yet when he arrives at the flat where Marcy is staying, and she’s out on an errand, he has no issues succumbing to the thinly veiled lascivious come-on’s of Marcy’s scantily clad artist friend, Kiki. After mulling it around for a day, I’m of a mind that this was Paul’s sin, and sins have to be punished.
The coincidence driven repercussions, while mathematically improbable, are what keep the viewer glued. A ray of hope followed by Godzilla’s giant foot squashing hope once again. A litany of ladies, who coincidentally all have a somewhat similar blonde, coiffed, appearance to Rosanna Arquette’s, Marcy, throw themselves at Paul, yet now all our, now laid bare as shallow and frightened, diminished protagonist wants is to get home.
While there is plenty of coincidental connective tissue between each scene, I have to admit that it doesn’t flow; it seems obvious and forced. Even with my adoption of a ‘crime and punishment’ interpretation, these script and style problems still bother me. There is also the matter of tone of each of the scenes. Suicide is pretty hard to butt up with Cheech and Chong’s shtick. Teri Garr’s trademark ditsy vulnerability not a great compliment to Catherine O’Hara’s brashness, and Verna Bloom’s sad desperation for affection. One could probably argue that it’s a film of contrast in tone, but … nah, I don’t think so.
Yet the fact that the film works despite all of these oil-and-water characters and scenes is a testament to Marty, and his incredible vision back then. While I’ll have to re-watch King of Comedy to confirm .. I’ve seen it in the last few years, After Hours, while fun, funny, and has it’s moments, is clearly the lesser of the two Scorsese comedic outings.