Dave's Rating:

3.0

And this night and the next night.

The multiple narrative possibilities of the choose-your-own-adventure story is probably not what anyone had in mind for this romantic comedy, which extracts its key components from David Mamet’s play Sexual Perversity in Chicago and the subsequent film version, 1986’s About Last Night, starring Demi Moore, Rob Lowe, Jim Belushi and Elizabeth Perkins. But it’s all here.

On the romantic comedy front, this update keeps it mostly tight. The characters, four single friends in Los Angeles falling in and out of bed and love with each other, are approximately realistic adults who spend their time yakking a blue streak to their best friends -- yet not necessarily to their romantic partners -- and hammering out more complex approaches to relationships than most simple-minded films in this genre ever allow. If it fails to fly at all times it’s because it runs into the same stumbling block seen in movie after movie featuring people in love – That Crucial Moment When Everybody Should Talk About The Big Problem But Inexplicably Do Not. And that’s just screenwriting laziness, really, a thing that could have been fixed with more inventive approaches to character. But otherwise it’s a solid, sweet, smart, grown-up film with a weirdly wise resolution.

At a business level, it’s also the story of Kevin Hart, a comedian whose gigantic ambition has catapulted him from the stand-up concert circuit to viable film presence. He stole every scene he could in Think Like a Man, gave the unpleasant Ride Along its only comic bounce and, now, thanks to the sparks-making comic chemistry he displays with his criminally underappreciated co-star Regina Hall, he slam dunks movie stardom. As the antagonistically horny best friends to handsome but, honestly, fairly bland couple played by Michael Ealy and Joy Bryant, Hall and Hart play off each other like a machine gun duet, a perfectly cooperative union of fighting and shouting, the Johnny Cash and June Carter of Hate Sex. As an antidote to their counterparts, their characters forge the more flexible and resilient relationship, the sort most romantic comedies are too timid to deal with, lest the audience become confused and angry about their own lack of understanding. These two should remake Bringing Up Baby or His Girl Friday. They belong together.

And then there’s the alternate reading of the entire plot as a Her-style romantic science fiction in a future Los Angeles where people live their entire lives in the downtown vintage lofts district, never have to drive anywhere (a nice companion vision to Her’s insistence on a multi-stranded and completely serviceable subway system that ushers the entire city’s population from one cool, colorful station to the next) and, somehow, have evolved into creatures who never need to eat. It's both amusing and distracting to watch tables full of food ignored, abandoned, knocked aside, tossed out windows and, weirdest of all, fake-eaten. The image of Joy Bryant putting a pair of foodless chopsticks to her lips and pretending take a bite of and enjoy what amounts to air in her mouth is a moment tailor-made for an endless YouTube loop as soon as the DVD hits stores. But the weirdest pleasure arrives squarely in the middle of the film, as Bryant and Ealy watch the 1986 version of the very movie they are starring in, thereby placing them in a universe where their love story already happened and where they are destined to re-enact it, right down to quoting its dialogue later as though they never saw it at all. It’ll make your head spin, but in a good way.

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