After Hours

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.

14 Responses to “After Hours”

  1. I was this one in a film class. I think i may be the only one who came out with this interpretation, but it struck me as showing how traumatizing a “SCrewball” comedy would be in real life. The Watchmen of Screwball Comedies in a way


  2. I liked this one a lot and I think that the whole “one hellish night” premise can work no matter what. Great performance from Dunne too, who honestly should have been a lot bigger. Nice review Mark.


    • You’re so right. Griffin Dunne showed enough talent that should‘ve made him a bigger star. An American Werewolf in London (1981) is his other great film. He also did the Madonna comedy Who’s That Girl, which is well known, but not in a good way. He would spend even more time behind the camera later in his career. In addition to co-producing this with his company Double Play Productions, he also produced Running on Empty (1988), White Palace (1990), and Once Around (1991). Later he started directing. Addicted to Love (1997) and Practical Magic (1998) were two of his films.


  3. Great review! I watched a clip in class and really liked it.


  4. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen this movie and your review makes me want to see it again. I was particularly pleased with Terri Gar’s part with her bed surrouned by mouse traps. This movie has a very complex tale like a nightmare and, you are right, somehow it does come full circle. Actually I feel it is best enjoyed the second or third time it is viewed when one accepts the changes in scenes. Anyone who yearns for alittle change or excitement in their life should see it and be satisfied with ho-hum.


    • Ha ha. Well said! Sometimes dull can be preferable. The mouse traps are just one of many sight gags. It’s one of those “what the?” moments. I’ve seen this film a few times over the years and I appreciate it more each time.


  5. This was such an outrageous and fun movie. Did not expect this from Martin. All the side characters were fantastic and a little creepy. Enjoyed it.


  6. One of the few films I haven’t seen in Scorsese’s catalog, that I’m genuinely intrigued in,


  7. No question there are some good laughs along the way, but compared to other nightmare-in-New-York pictures, like “Prisoner of Second Avenue” and “The Out of Towners”, this one comes up WAY short. Neil Simon may be a tough act to follow, but Scorsese had been fully up to it with “King of Comedy”, his last film before this. The problem here, as it usually is, is in the script. Comedy’s hard to do and you can’t take too many shortcuts. Granted Henry Miller’s books and George Segal’s sculptures need little more than a mention to be funny, as can also be said of irate cab drivers and intransigent subway agents. But the same doesn’t hold true for nudity, blasphemy, homosexuality, rape, suicide and the death of the person you love. You’ve got to be pretty darn clever to get humor out of things like that, and if you don’t make it, you take the edge off all the really funny stuff that comes before and after.


  8. I’ve been watching a lot of Martin Scorsese films lately. Within the past three or four days, I’ve seen Who’s That Knocking at My Door, Casino, Cape Fear, and now this. I must say your review is spot-on. After Hours was such a wonderful little movie, and the ending blew my mind.


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