New York City has never felt smaller than in After Hours, Martin Scorsese’s delightfully offbeat 1985 comedy about a man trapped in the wrong side of New York. Griffin Dunne stars here as Paul Hackett, a word processor (hard to believe that was once a profession!) who goes up to SoHo to visit a girl who takes a shine to him. From there it’s all downhill as every possible thing that can go wrong for Paul does.
Scorsese is of course not a director particularly known for directing comedy, and yet some of his best films have a darkly comedic sensibility. Here, Scorsese channels that sensibility entirely, creating a film that is simultaneously anxiety-inducing at every turn; and yet, thanks to a style that verges on expressionist, we find ourselves chuckling in amusement almost as much as we find ourselves wincing at every wrong turn. It’s like if a Woody Allen movie took a wrong turn toward the sinister, with an overwhelming dream logic driving away any cheap or easy comedic sentiments, always pushing things to an illogical extreme.
As we watch Griffin Dunne over the course of the film, we are seeing a man slowly going insane, until finally his exterior matches the interior that we know has taken over him, in the form of Munch’s The Scream. Howard Shore’s fantastical score plays over every moment, constantly ticking away the seconds as the Paul’s evening inevitably careens from disaster to disaster.
He never gets his keys back.