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After Hours (1985) Film Review

Scorsese’s hidden gem After Hours is the perfect late night watch, as you enter the underworld of downtown New York following one man’s chaotic night.

Martin Scorsese is widely known for Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, The Wolf of Wall Street, the list goes on. One title that often slips many people’s minds when it comes to Scorsese is After Hours, a new watch for me, but one that I instantly fell in love with. As I’m writing this, I’m watching After Hours for the second time in three months and still finding new things to adore about it. It’s quirky, entertaining and full of angst. Anxiety is around every corner for our main character Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne) as he steers around downtown New York, pulling an all nighter, whilst managing to get himself into every and any crises that the night has to offer. Paul meets an array of strange and intriguing people that intertwine their nights into his escapade.

Paul is committed to his boring office job and lives a repetitive life. Life as Paul knows it revolves around waking up for work, going to work, going home, and waking up for work again. Similarly to  The Narrator in Fight Club, he’s a worker bee and a product of a capitalist society. Paul reads his favourite book (“Tropic of Cancer” by Henry Miller) all the time, as he has become accustomed to a routine and repeats the same things he knows. New experiences are few and far between, as Paul sticks to familiarity. One night, Paul meets a woman, Mary (Rosanna Arquette), in a cafe diner. Mary immediately takes Paul’s interest after they start talking across tables in the diner. It’s only a matter of time before Mary changes the course of Paul’s night, leading him into a series of complications that he can’t seem to escape.

After Hours’ bedlam starts off slow. Paul loses his $20 out of a speeding taxi window, but this lost $20 are the least of his worries for the night. The nightmares begin to build themselves up, including minor hurdles, like being caught by police for barrier hopping on the subway and almost getting an unwanted mohawk. But the night has only just begun, and there’s unlimited chaos in store for Paul. His night seems to go on for hours and hours. It’s never-ending. Maybe it was in Paul’s best interest to stick to a routine and not go out to meet new people, especially when he ends his night being chased through New York by some of the various people he’s met throughout his evening of mishaps.

loud and clear reviews After Hours film 1985 movie
After Hours (Warner Bros.)

‘Kafkaesque’ is one word that has often been used to describe After Hours. It’s certainly a bizarre film on all accounts. The narrative continues to get stranger and stranger, and every bad thing possible keeps happening to Paul. He unearths everything negative in a few hours that some people don’t even encounter in an entire lifetime. And yet he still goes to work the next day. Deadly obstacles could be directly in front of Paul and he’d still find a way to get to work on time. He’s determined enough to get through the macabre night he faces and make it out alive. I quite frankly wouldn’t be able to cope and would need at least a week off of work.

A mesmerising and zealous performance from Arquette shines through for the first half of After Hours. Mary loves her roommate Kiki (Linda Fiorentino) and tells Paul straight away about her and how she’s a sculptress. Mary entrances Paul in and he calls Kiki up the second he gets home to buy some of her plaster of Paris bagel and cream cheese paperweights. These are Kiki’s latest specialty. Paul wants to impress women (clearly) but doesn’t really have the charm that the girls he goes for want in a man. He doesn’t seem to care though and can move on to a new woman faster than a lightning bolt.

One interesting theory about Paul’s life is that this night changes him so much that he quits his job. During the end credits, the camera pans back into Paul’s desk and he is no longer there. Maybe he went to the bathroom to clean himself up, or maybe he left completely and went home. Mary brings up how her husband loves the film The Wizard of Oz, and perhaps this has more meaning to it than you first think. The moral of the story in The Wizard of Oz is to have courage in yourself. Paul could be signifying the lack of courage he has in his day to day life as he never does anything new. So, when he meets Mary and encounters all those strange people, it’s like his awakening, or metaphorically, his visit to The Wizard. All he needed was some unwanted change, and granted, it was a little more than anyone ever needs, but he can quit his job and move onto something more exciting as he knows he has it in him now.

If you love comedies or you’re looking to tick off some more Scorsese films from your watchlist, After Hours is the film to watch. It’s Good Time meets Desperately Seeking Susan. It’s intense and complicated, yet you’re hooked for the entire time trying to figure out the meaning behind everything and every character. Whilst After Hours is certainly confusing, it’s incredibly entertaining. Dunne is fabulous in the lead role and I can’t recommend this enough just for his performance alone! After Hours is the perfect film to indulge yourself in on a late night with a glass of wine.

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After Hours is now available to watch on digital and on demand. Watch After Hours!

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