For “About Last Night” to work, you have to buy into the relationship between Danny (Michael Ealy) and Debbie (Joy Bryant), and that’s not really a problem.
Part of it is because they just plain make sense on a visual level. They’re both striking actors, but they’re not kids, which makes a difference. Bryant has a sort of non-nonsense beauty on “Parenthood,” and they didn’t go overboard to change her for the film. They both seem like people who are at home in their skin, happy with who they are, and open to something good happening. This movie doesn’t feel like a standard issue romantic comedy precisely because it’s about grown-ups who are trying to do the right thing by themselves and by this person they invite into their lives. The fact that they seem like they’re trying to do things right only makes it more significant when they can’t pull it off.
When we talked about the film, I wanted to talk about the attitude of Leslye Headland’s script and how it gave the actors such great stuff to play, and they were happy to discuss not only the script but the general chemistry they had as well.
Towards the end of the interview, though, there was another topic that I wanted to discuss with them. When “Ride Along” recently opened, we saw that same box-office story that gets written over and over about how surprising it is when a film that is cast largely African-American does well in its first weekend. I think that story is straight up ignorant at this point in 2014.
Look, when you’ve got a guy like Kevin Hart in the film, that is a huge help for opening weekend. He has this enormously dedicated audience, and if they’re going to turn out for one of his films, why should that be a surprise? More importantly, if you run a good campaign and you actually have the film to back it up, chances are you can get that strong opening weekend. Even better, word of mouth will help keep that momentum going. I think Hart is on the verge of being a major star, and that should help with “About Last Night.”
But the answer they gave wasn’t about that opening weekend exclusively. They talked about how Headland’s script wasn’t specifically written for a black or a white cast, and when Ealy, Bryant, Hart and Regina Hall all signed on, there was never a rewrite designed to “black it up.”
Ealy’s answer was a great one, and I think he’s right. It’s just a matter of getting past the notion of “black films” and “white films.” They didn’t cast the film this way as a stunt, but rather because they were able to find a great ensemble who gave the film a very different tone that isn’t just an update of the ’80s film. I admire this kind of writing and casting, and I look forward to eventually out-living those terrible box-office headlines because no one is surprised by their success anymore.
“About Last Night” opens February 14, 2014.