Pugnacious, sanctimonious, and relentlessly working the angles, Kevin Hart’s character, Bernie, hijacks the new About Last Night whenever he appears on screen, turning an essentially crude wingman into the conscience of the film’s torturous, nettled discourse on romance. The same goes for Regina Hall’s brusque, flame-throwing Joan, with whom Bernie has a saucy, sometimes grotesque don’t-call-it-a-relationship. During a double date with Danny (Michael Ealy) and Debbie (Joy Bryant), the matchmaking, mile-a-minute couple claws at each other for the audience’s guffaws, while their friends awkwardly try to make conversation. Bantering as they leave together, Danny and Debbie are genuinely charmed—and surprised to be so—by each other. The next day, Bernie catches Danny checking his Facebook for a friend request from Debbie at work, and the script reveals itself as a parallel study in two couples.
As such, screenwriter Leslye Headland makes the most of an inherently hoary balancing act. Danny and Debbie’s bland sexual euphoria soon gives way to a real relationship while Bernie and Joan’s crumbles, but they inevitably run afoul of their too-fast decision to move in together and—less common to the rom-com genre—Danny’s surprising shallowness and fear of commitment. Bernie warns his friend that he’s “playing the fuck-buddy game, and somebody always gets hurt. Nine times out of 10 that somebody happens to be the one with a vagina!” Hart’s delivery is brash, impassioned, and hilarious, throwing Ealy’s doe-eyed, milquetoast leading man even further askew when his crazy friend’s observations turn out to be correct.
Overall, the jokes work more often than not thanks to this type of conversational subterfuge, which strongly dictates the filmmaking choices. The film’s editors make a lot of their cuts on lines that bring the characters’ conversations to a grinding halt, which means the 180-degree rule gets a shellacking whenever Hart or Hall are on screen. And the digital camerawork captures the full length of a moment of intensity with the same adventureness that the game actors reveal. The filmmakers’ almost Cassavetes-like emphasis on performance gives the film a spontaneous feeling, standing at bizarre odds with Danny’s improbably lush penthouse or the many generic upscale bars where the action unfolds. Beneath most every woozy rom-com trope available, About Last Night buries an almost admirable human messiness—and it looks and feels like everybody had a great time making it.