Saturday, November 28, 2009

After Hours (1985)

After a failed attempt to produce The Last Temptation Of The Christ in 1983, legendary director Martin Scorsese returned two years later with the masterful comedy After Hours. Although it failed to cause much of a stir at the box office upon it’s release, this dark and fast-paced comedy has since earned a cult following and remains an underrated classic among Scorsese fans.

For a director best known for powerful dramas such as Raging Bull and Taxi Driver, After Hours’ comedic spirit served as a slight departure for Scorsese, but his signature style is still evident throughout the picture. The combination of drama and comedy proves extremely effective as Scorsese draws the audience into the plot like a fisherman reels in his catch. What we get as a result is an impressive example of a comedy that holds you tight and never lets you go.

The plot revolves around Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne), a word-processor living in New York city who’s life is turned upside down when a he finds himself stranded in SoHo, a section of the city far away from where he resides. What proceeds is a bizarre series of events including an angry mob, two thieves on the prowl (played by Cheech and Chong), and a host of oddball characters (incl. a woman stuck in the 60’s and a na├»ve man-whore).

While inferior comedies connect comedic events with simple and elementary storylines, the marvelous screenplay of After Hours (written by film student Joseph Minion) connects these events in a brilliant succession of coincidences and bizarre twists of fate, while never once becoming unbelievable or implausible.

While obviously a comedy film, Scorsese’s unique blend of comedic and dramatic elements often creates a tense mood, especially in scenes involving Paul and his soon-to-be lover Marcy. Their uneasiness and awkwardness in a conversation involving rape and past relationships is felt not only by the characters, but also by the audience. Through Scorsese’s brilliant directing, we feel what the characters feel, which makes the horrible events about to unfold all the more real and effective.

Another exceptional element of After Hours is it’s use of the dark and gloomy atmosphere of SoHo to create a mood of darkness and confusion in the film. Like in Taxi Driver, New York is intended to be viewed as a metaphor for hell, and Paul Hackett is caught in this hell all night long, unable to escape the constant barrage of these ridiculous events.

The major theme of this movie is the struggle between chaos and order. Throughout the film, Paul undergoes a dramatic change in character as he breaks free from the fear that confines him and restricts him from living his life to the fullest.

There is an exceptionally well written scene near the end of the film where Paul argues with his conscious (in the form of a large bouncer) to enter the world of chaos (represented by a punk Rock nightclub). After pleading with the bouncer and offering all of the money he has left, the bouncer is finally worn down and allows Paul to enter, indicating that Paul is one step closer to overcoming his fear.

The themes of fear and change can be found everywhere throughout the movie. When Paul says “I just want to get out of the rain and get myself home!”, he is verbalizing his desire to escape the chaos, represented by the rain, and escape back to the order, represented by his home. In fact, the entire plot of the movie is a metaphor for Metamorphasis and rebirth. This theory is reinforced in the final scene, which leaves the viewer satisfied and relieved that their journey has finally come to an end.

After Hours, though very much deserving, has never been met with much enthusiasm by critics or the ignorant public, but those who will see the movie can expect big laughs, tense situations, and a fast-paced comedy that never let’s you down. If you find a copy of After Hours on DVD, check it out, you will not be disappointed!

And remember, as the wise man behind the counter says, “Different rules apply After Hours!”


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