About last night…

There is such a thing as too beautiful. This is not a compliment masquerading as an insult. This is just an insult.  Rob Lowe in the rather dreadful 1986 film  About Last Night (yes, I’m that bored) is simply too beautiful. As Lowe has gotten older, his face has inevitably cragged. But as a 22-year-old playing older than his years in About Last Night, his face is otherworldly. Perfectly symmetrical, eyes just blazing, cheekbones sculpted at unbelievable, model angles. It’s weird. It’s distracting.

Rob Lowe plays Danny, a college dropout who works as a restaurant supplier person in Chicago. His best friend is Bernie (Jim Belushi, always, I thought, unfairly tagged as the lesser Belushi. Until I saw this movie. Why invite the inevitable comparisons by playing such a John Belushi-like character, Jim?), a horrible miscreant of a person, who is just so contemptible in this film that how and why Danny and Bernie remain friends is one of the film’s unsolved mysteries. After a softball game, Danny and Bernie go to a bar where Danny picks up the enchanting Debby (Demi Moore), an advertising designer. The subsequent relationship that unfolds draws the ire of Debby’s best friend Joan (Elizabeth Perkins, who I just realized was in the remake of Miracle on 34th Street. She is such an underrated fox. Her eyes are beautiful.)

About Last Night is based on the David Mamet play “Sexual Perversity in Chicago” and the film certainly has the insularity of a play. You can almost see the script directions as you watch. Setting: Mother’s Bar. Danny and Debby exchange furtive glances.

The central problem with About Last Night as a film is that the relationship between Danny and Debby has no development. Director Edward Zwick opts for montages shot to synth-heavy ’80s music, as opposed to doing the hard work of showing viewers at home the gradual incremental formation of Danny and Debby’s love for each other. When Debby says that she barely knows Danny, it’s a pertinent line relevant not just about the strangeness of their relationship, but to the characters as a whole. Watching About Last Night makes me appreciate Nora Ephron even more.  She was so good at crafting characters and relationships that evolved. I always felt like I knew Joe Fox and Sally Albright. I don’t know Danny and Debby. It’s telling that they don’t even have last names.

This might not have mattered so much or been such a bother if the acting was better. Demi Moore is surprisingly good, and her voice interestingly raspy, but Rob Lowe is just not believable as a lower-class Chicago guy. Even in this flm, the crisp over-enunciation of Chris Treager is already in conception.  He also looks young, so unbelievably young, like he should-be-scrounging-around-in-his-parents’-basement-three-days-after-graduating-college-young.

According to Wikipedia (I think we have honestly reached an era where we can use this phrase nonsarcastically), Mamet hated this film adaptation. Totally understandable.


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