Martin Scorcese’s 1985 black comedy “After Hours” is another one of those movies I love that was never what you’d call a smash hit, though it did win Scorcese a Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival.
It stars Griffin Dunne as Paul Hackett, a hapless word processor who meets a girl, Marcy (Rosanna Arquette) in a diner and agrees to a late-night date with her later on. He goes to her apartment, which she shares with a sculptor and on the way loses his only money, a $20 bill that flies out his taxi’s window. Stranded in the lower depths of Manhattan (probably TriBeCa, also the name of Scorcese’s production company) Paul’s only desire is to get back home, a desire thwarted at every turn as he runs into and frequently finds himself fleeing from, a variety of bizarre characters, most of whom are at once comic and vaguely sinister oddballs. There’s no plot in the conventional sense; it’s a series of misadventures that eventually turn hostile and sinister, thanks to Scorcese’s handling of the material. Still, you can’t help laughing as the misfortunes pile up against poor Paul, until he’s fleeing for his very life, encased in plaster like a statue. You have to see it to find out why.
The cast, which apart from Dunne and Arquette, also features Teri Garr, Cheech and Chong and Catherine O’Hara, is uniformly wonderful.
Most critics liked it when it first came out. Roger Ebert gave it four stars and said it "continues Scorsese's attempt to combine comedy and satire with unrelenting pressure and a sense of all-pervading paranoia." He later added it to his Great Movies list. But it never seemed to catch on, I think because it defies categorization – is it a comedy, a mystery, an urban fairy tale? I don’t know and I don’t think I care. It’s a unique kind of dark, shaggy dog story. Check it out and let me know what you think.