In About Last Night, two couples who are polar opposites — one sweet, restrained, and devoted; the other raunchy, angry, and uncommitted — form together out of two sets of best friends in Los Angeles. Danny (Michael Ealy) and Debbie (Joy Bryant) are the nice ones. Back in the day when this movie (or at least a version of it) starred Rob Lowe and Demi Moore, they would have been called ”yuppies,” and by that I mean less their status than their style: the intimate meals consumed with wine under mood lighting at the kitchen island, the way the two hold their feelings in. Of course, yuppie style in the movies is often code for People Who Live Too Much On the Surface to Have a Good Relationship, but it’s clear early on that Danny and Debbie really are meant for each other. Their lovey-dovey moments are genuine and, on occasion, touching — like when he takes her to a Dodgers game with lousy bleachers season tickets that have been in his family for decades, and she loves him for holding on to them.
The plot of most romantic comedies consists of the things that get in the way of two people getting together. That’s what happens in About Last Night, too, except that the only thing getting in the way of Danny and Debbie getting together is their own relationship. They hold everything up to a microscope and become convinced that their foibles are fatal. They also fall apart with a little help from their friends.
As soon as Bernie (Kevin Hart) and Joan (Regina Hall) meet, they know how to do exactly three things: drink, fight, and go to bed in lusty, nasty ways. Their affair is one long groovy hate f—. But it’s not just that they like ragging on each other and then making up by doing things like having sex with one of them wearing a chicken mask. Bernie, a devoted bachelor, isn’t so much scared of commitment as he is blithely, belligerently contemptuous of it, and Joan, a dental hygienist, treats love as if it were plaque — as something to be removed. The two spread their toxic belief that love is a second-rate emotion into the hearts of their two (wiser) pals, who start, almost in spite of themselves, to listen to them. When About Last Night is funny, which is every so often, it’s because of Kevin Hart. He now owns the fastest mouth in movie comedy, and he knows how to employ his whole high-pitched Chris Tucker street-fury style so that it expresses something more humane than it did when Tucker was ruling the screen with it. In About Last Night, Hart blows up, to hilariously oversize proportions, the eternal male desire for freedom. He’s raunch on wheels.
On paper, About Last Night is a third-generation copy of David Mamet’s 1974 stage play Sexual Perversity in Chicago — but if anything, the way the material has now been rewritten again, it comes closer to Mamet’s rancorous vision of dueling hormones than the ’80s screen version did. That said, the play itself was just a trifle (though it once seemed novel, much more than it does 40 years later, for the vital vulgarity of Mamet’s voice). The 1986 About Last Night was watchable but mediocre, and the new version is watchable and…a little more slapdash, a little more lively. You always know, in essence, where it’s going, and I wish that Ealy and Bryant seemed less like a truly nice couple and more like movie stars. By the end, however, the movie has captured something undeniably genuine about contemporary relationships: all the ways that they can, and will, get in their own way. B