Martin Scorsese directed this one night in the life of ordinary citizen Paul Hackett. Paul lives and works as a computer consultant in New York City. That evening while hanging out in a coffee shop in Manhattan he meets a quirky but attractive girl. They chat flirtatiously. Marcy Franklin has a loft in trendy SoHo. She gives him her number. Intrigued he calls her back later that very night and agrees to visit her immediately. His existence will never be the same.
One might think this isn’t a typical subject for Martin Scorsese. It doesn’t involve gangsters and the violence is minimal. However his visual style is all over this successful realization of a script by Joseph Minion. Griffin Dunne, who additionally serves as co-producer, is the star and he’s ideal in conveying an everyman. He only wants to inject a little fun into his humdrum life but is thwarted at every turn. His exasperation incurs the audience’s laughter as well as our sympathy. That’s not an easy task and he manages it skillfully. Rosanna Arquette is the mystery girl, and she’s positively bewitching. There’s something a bit mischievous about her too. She’s the first person he encounters, but she won’t be the last. He’ll also bump into eccentrics portrayed by Teri Garr, John Heard, Catherine O’Hara, Linda Fiorentino, Verna Bloom and two thieves whose identities I won’t reveal here. Look closely and you’ll even see Martin Scorsese as a searchlight operator at Club Berlin.
After Hours is an absolute delight. The theme concerns one night in New York City, and although what transpires could happen in any major metropolitan area, the trappings are distinctly New York. It’s funny how Scorsese is able to satirize the city while still celebrating its cosmopolitan atmosphere. The genius is the method in which the action slowly unfolds getting progressively more ridiculous as time goes on. We sense something is amiss right from the very start. Notice how Marcy’s roommate Kiki answers the phone when he rings her up. Kiki’s disembodied voice dripping with annoyance. That’s merely the beginning. His odyssey becomes nightmarish in its development. The brilliance is that he takes the saga to places we don’t anticipate. Creatively building layer upon layer of insanity to form a perfectly realized vision of hell on earth. It’s hilarious, weird and uncomfortable at once. Throughout it all, Dunne grounds the picture in an air of normalcy that radiates safety for the viewer. And just when you fear that this cruel paean to the Big Apple cannot end in any meaningful way, it does. The story comes full circle intelligently referencing events we’ve seen before. It’s an intricately constructed tale that simply gets better with age.