June 28, 2011

Queer Review: After Hours (1985)

After Hours
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writer: Joseph Minion
Cast: Griffin Dunne, Rosanna Arquette, Linda Fiorentino, John Heard

A fish out of water comedy - although a much darker effort than one might expect from that genre - After Hours is one of Martin Scorsese's lesser efforts. However, it still manages to offer up some solid entertainment due to a rousing final hour.

Mild mannered word processor (yes, that used to a profession) Paul Hackett decides on a whim to met late at night with a girl who gave him her phone number in a coffeeshop. On the cab ride to her apartment, Paul loses all of his money, and thus after he dumps her due to him fearing she may literally be scared for life, he finds himself unable to make his way home. This results in a series of increasingly over the top adventures for Paul as he tries to make his way home, which includes meeting a woman whose dress and lifestyle is stuck in the 60's and an angry mob led by a gay couple that believes Paul is responsible for a string of robberies in the area.

The Queering
My biggest problem with After Hours is the slow setup. However, once things start to come together in the second half and the disparate plot threads start to intertwine to build towards some narrative momentum, there is plenty of fun to be had here. Since this is a Martin Scorsese film the technical elements are executed perfectly. There is also some nice cinematography featuring the shadier side of New York City that probably would never show up in a commercial with the phrase "I Love NY".

There is a heavy shade of irony to everything that transpires. Paul simply wants to go home in order to get to sleep before he has to work the next day but due to circumstances beyond his control, he is drawn into an increasingly bizarre world, populated by people who stay out into the wee after hours of the morning. His character arc is perfectly elliptical, represented by how he ends the movie in the same location where he began it.

If there was a message to all of this, it was lost on me. Was Scorsese trying to tell audiences that life is better when we take risks or that we should simply enjoy the journey we are on? In all honesty, I have no idea what the whole point of this was, if there even was one. I therefore believe that this was simply an effort on Scorsese's part to make something a bit different then his usual violent films. Scorsese's films - at least those that I have seen such as Taxi Driver or Shutter Island - tend to feature socially awkward men who are lost and wandering in a world clearly beyond their own comprehension. Paul fits in well with this company, but due to his lacking severe psychological issues (outside of a fear of burns thanks to a childhood incident) After Hours is a dark comedy rather than one of the searing dramas that fill the ranks of Scorsese's filmography.

Anyone willing to sit through the first half of After Hours, will find there is plenty of fun to be had in the second.

The Rating


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