It takes a while for a Martin Scorsese movie to soak in and have an impact on the viewer. Many times, you’ll walk out of a Scorsese film unsure of what you witnessed and confused. Weeks later, sometimes even months later, you realize something that you missed or overlooked that adds a whole new level of appreciation to the film.
This is how I feel about every Martin Scorsese film I have seen up to this point. Films like “Goodfellas,” “Taxi Driver” and “The King Of Comedy” all initially left me feeling cold in their often awkward and bizarre nature. But, over time, these films have grown on me through their characters being so far removed from reality that they take on a world of their own.
There is something to be admired about a film that sits with you for so long, even if you didn’t immediately like it, and eventually provokes new and unique emotions and feelings out of you. If anything, that gives you a deeper appreciation for it and the filmmakers who gave it to you.
This is how I feel about Scorsese’s 1985 dark comedy “After Hours.” Having recently watched the film for the first time, it has, like many other Scorsese films before it, left an impression on me, but one of uncertainty and caution. There are elements to be admired, but they are so disturbing and icky that it could really go both ways.
Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne) is a word-processor for a company in New York City, and seems to want just a bit more out of life. One night, he meets an attractive woman in a restaurant and manages to get her number. He calls her later that night and she immediately wants to get together, but she wants to meet at her apartment in the SoHo district.
So begins the craziest night of Paul’s life, where everything that can go wrong does and Paul gets blamed for practically everything bad that happens, even to strangers who have never met Paul blame him for crimes he didn’t commit. All because he wanted a little more of life.
At times, the writing comes off like an episode of “Seinfeld” where plot points that you would never put together come full circle by the end and the most ridiculous things happen because of the tiniest spark. By the end of the film, Paul is being chased by an angry mob bent on killing him and a crazy woman driving an ice cream truck leading the charge.
Some might say that events like these are completely coincidental and that Paul was always in the wrong place at the wrong time. Others might say that it is a way of getting back at Paul for the actions he took earlier in the film, where he acted terribly towards the woman he came all the way to SoHo to see.
At one point in the film, Paul gets down on his knees and yells at the skies, screaming about why he deserves all of this. “I’m just a word-processor,” he screams.
All Paul wants is to get back home, but he has no money, no transportation and any time he reaches out to help others, he obliterates any form of hope. That’s all fine and good, but what makes this stand out is how “After Hours” makes it seem like Paul does deserve this, as if some kind of divine punishment.
He doesn’t act badly throughout most of the film, and only wishes to survive the night. There is one moment where Paul does an unforgivable act that he regrets and leads to his ultimate downfall. Normally, this would be something I can look past, since someone should not be defined by just one action. The gods doesn’t seem to think the same way though, and thus Paul must now experience hell on earth.
The reason I hold reservations against “After Hours” is just how uncomfortable the film makes me feel. There is many obscene and disturbing things going on in SoHo that its hard to fully get invested. For example, during their date, Paul and the attractive woman talk about their past, and the woman goes on a rant about how her husband wouldn’t stop screaming “Surrender Dorothy” on their wedding night. It comes out of no where and exists primarily to disturb the audience.
Granted, it succeeds at doing just that, along with many of the other unpleasant scenes to come out of the film, including the frightening artwork by Kiki, the attractive woman’s roommate, and the kind of pleasure that she is into.
If I were to describe “After Hours” in one statement, it would be “uncomfortable, but for a good reason.” It takes every opportunity to be disturbing, while still being realistically so, but does so to set up a mood and atmosphere where one man being punished by the gods is acceptable. If that doesn’t sound appealing to you, then this isn’t the film for you. If you are a fan of dark comedies and like the way episodes of “Seinfeld” unfolded, then give “After Hours” a shot.
Perhaps later on my opinion of “After Hours” will grow, like it has for many past Scorsese films. Something new might come up and my appreciation for the film would increase. After all, as we change over time, so do our opinions.
Final Grade: B-