After Hours (film)
After Hours is a 1985 American black comedy film directed by Martin Scorsese, written by Joseph Minion, and starring Griffin Dunne with an ensemble cast. The film follows Paul Hackett, portrayed by Dunne, as he experiences a series of misadventures while making his way home from New York City's SoHo district during the night.
After Hours received positive reviews with praises for its black humor, and is considered to be a cult film. Warner Home Video released the film on VHS and Betamax in 1986 for both widescreen and pan-and-scan NTSC LaserDiscs. It has also been released on DVD. The film won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Feature. Martin Scorsese won the Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Director and the Independent Spirit Award for Best Director for the film.
After a long and boring day at work, Paul Hackett, a computer data entry worker, meets Marcy Franklin in a local cafe in New York City. Marcy tells him that she is living with a sculptor named Kiki Bridges, who makes and sells plaster-of-Paris paperweights resembling cream cheese bagels, and leaves him her number. Later in the night, after calling the number under the pretense of buying a paperweight, Paul takes a cab to the apartment. On the way, his $20 bill is blown out the window of the cab, leaving him with only some change, much to the incredulity of the cab driver. At the apartment, Paul meets Kiki, who is working on a sculpture of a cowering and screaming man, and, throughout the visit, comes across several pieces of evidence that imply Marcy is disfigured from burns. As a result of this implication and strange behavior from Marcy, Paul abruptly slips out of the apartment.
Paul attempts to go home by subway, but the fare has increased at the stroke of midnight. He goes to a bar where Julie, a waitress, immediately becomes enamored with him. At the bar, Paul learns that there have been a string of burglaries in the neighborhood. The bartender, Tom Schorr, offers to give Paul money for a subway token, but he is unable to open the cash register. They exchange keys so Paul can go to Tom's place to fetch the cash register key. Afterward, Paul spots two burglars, Neil and Pepe, with Kiki's man sculpture. After he confronts them, they flee, dropping the sculpture in the process. When Paul returns the sculpture to Kiki and Marcy's apartment, Kiki encourages him to apologize to Marcy. However, when he attempts to do so, he discovers Marcy has committed suicide; Kiki and a man named Horst have already left to go to a place called Club Berlin. Paul reports Marcy's death before remembering he was supposed to return Tom's keys.
Paul attempts to return to Tom's bar, but it is locked out with a sign indicating that Tom will be back in half an hour. Paul meets Julie again on the street, and she invites him up to her apartment to wait for Tom, where Paul is unnerved by her own strange behavior. He then returns to Tom's bar only for Tom to get a call informing him of the death of Marcy, who was his girlfriend. Paul decides to return to Julie's apartment, where she begins to sketch his portrait while they talk. Ultimately, Paul rejects Julie's advances and leaves. In search of Kiki and Horst to inform them of Marcy's suicide, he goes to Club Berlin, where a group of punks attempt to shave his head into a mohawk. Narrowly escaping, Paul meets a woman named Gail, an ice cream truck driver who eventually mistakes him for the burglar plaguing the neighborhood, and she and a mob of local residents relentlessly pursue him.
He meets a man who he asks for help, and the man assumes that he is looking for a gay hookup. Paul finds Tom again, but the mob (with the assistance of Julie, Gail, and Gail's Mister Softee truck) pursues Paul. Paul discovers that as payback for rejecting her, Julie used his image in a wanted poster that names him as the burglar. He ultimately seeks refuge back at Club Berlin. Paul uses his last quarter to play "Is That All There Is?" by Peggy Lee and asks a woman named June to dance. Paul explains he is being pursued and June, also a sculptor who lives in the club's basement, offers to help him. She protects him by pouring plaster on him in order to disguise him as a sculpture while the mob searches the club for Paul. However, she will not let him out of the plaster even after the mob leaves, and it eventually hardens, trapping Paul in a position that resembles Kiki's sculpture. Neil and Pepe then break into Club Berlin and steal him, placing him in the back of their van. He falls from the van right outside the gate to his office building as the sun is rising. Paul brushes himself off and goes to his desk, bringing the film full circle.
This film belongs in a grouping that revolves around a young working professional who is placed under threat, named the "yuppie nightmare cycle", a subgenre of films which combine two genres in itself – screwball comedy and film noir. Some critics present a psychoanalytic view of the film; Paul is constantly emasculated by women in the film: by Kiki with her sexual aggressiveness and a lust for masochism, Marcy turning down his sexual advances, Julie and Gail turning a vigilante mob on him, and June entrapping him in plaster, rendering him helpless. There are many references to castration within the film, most of which are shown when women are present. In the bathroom in Terminal Bar where Julie first encounters Paul, there is an image scrawled on the wall of a shark biting a man's erect penis. Marcy makes a reference to her husband using a double entendre when saying, "I broke the whole thing off" when talking about her and her husband's sex life. One of the mouse traps that surrounds her bed clamps shut when Julie tries to seduce Paul.
Michael Rabiger in his book titled Directing saw mythological symbolism as a primary theme used by Scorsese stating: "The hero of Scorsese's dark comedy After Hours is like a rat trying to escape from a labyrinth. Indeed there is a caged rat in one scene where Paul finds himself trapped in a talkative woman's apartment. The film could be plotted out as a labyrinthine journey, each compartment holding out the promise of a particular experience, almost all illusory and misleading".
Paramount Pictures' abandonment of The Last Temptation of Christ production was a huge disappointment to Scorsese. It spurred him to focus on independent companies and smaller projects. The opportunity was offered to him by his lawyer Jay Julien, who put him through Griffin Dunne and Amy Robinson's independent group: Double Play Company. The project was called A Night in Soho and it was based on the script by Joseph Minion. The screenplay, originally titled Lies after the 1982 Joe Frank monologue that inspired the story, was written as part of an assignment for his film course at Columbia University. Minion was 26 years old at the time the film was produced. The script finally became After Hours after Scorsese made his final amendments.
One of Scorsese's inputs involves the dialogue between Paul and the doorman at Club Berlin, inspired by Franz Kafka's Before the Law, one of the short stories included in his novel The Trial. As Scorsese explained to Paul Attanasio, the short story reflected his frustration toward the production of The Last Temptation of Christ, for which he had to continuously wait, as Joseph K had to in The Trial.
The film was originally to be directed by Tim Burton, but Scorsese read the script at a time when he was unable to get financial backing to complete The Last Temptation of Christ, and Burton gladly stepped aside when Scorsese expressed interest in directing.
British director Michael Powell took part in the production process of the film (Powell and editor Thelma Schoonmaker married soon afterward). Nobody was sure how the film should end. Powell said that Paul must finish up back at work, but this was initially dismissed as too unlikely and difficult. They tried many other endings, and a few were even filmed, but the only one that everyone felt really worked was to have Paul finish up back at work just as the new day was starting.
The musical score for After Hours was composed by Howard Shore, who has collaborated on multiple occasions with Scorsese. Although an official soundtrack album was not released, many of Shore's cues appear on the 2009 album Howard Shore: Collector's Edition Vol. 1. In addition to the score, other music credited at the end of the film is:
The film grossed only $10.1 million in the United States, but was given positive reviews and went on to be considered an "underrated" Scorsese film. The film did, however, garner Scorsese the Best Director Award at the 1986 Cannes Film Festival and allowed the director to take a hiatus from the tumultuous development of The Last Temptation of Christ.
Film critic Roger Ebert gave After Hours a positive review and a rating of four out of four stars. He praised the film as one of the year's best 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 the film to his "Great Movies" list. In The New York Times, Vincent Canby gave the film a mixed review and called it an "entertaining tease, with individually arresting sequences that are well acted by Mr. Dunne and the others, but which leave you feeling somewhat conned."
On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, After Hours holds an approval rating of 89% based on 56 reviews, with an average rating of 7.64/10. The site's critics consensus reads: "Bursting with frantic energy and tinged with black humor, After Hours is a masterful – and often overlooked – detour in Martin Scorsese's filmography." At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating to reviews, the film has a weighted average score of 90 out of 100, based on eight critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
Radio artist Joe Frank later filed a lawsuit, claiming the screenplay lifted its plot setup and portions of dialogue, particularly in the first 30 minutes of the film, from his 1982 NPR Playhouse monologue "Lies". Though Frank never received official credit, he reportedly was "paid handsomely" in a settlement.