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Griffin Dunne

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After Hours: A Peculiar and Potent Film

By Peter Bradshaw

Published on March 20, 2024

Introduction

Martin Scorsese’s 1985 screwball noir, After Hours, has returned to the big screen. Initially perceived as an atypical Scorsese film, it now reveals its peculiar brilliance. Let's delve into this enigmatic cinematic experience.

The Strangeness Unfolds

At first glance, After Hours appears comic and farcical, but beneath the surface lies a disquieting anxiety. The film follows Paul (played by Griffin Dunne), a Manhattan office worker teaching outdated computer software. His chance encounter with Marcy (Rosanna Arquette) leads to a series of bizarre events, including a recovered childhood memory that haunts him.

1980s New York

Set against the backdrop of 1980s New York, After Hours belongs to the "yuppie disaster" genre. Well-off white-collar New Yorkers, smug in their success during the Reagan bull market, find themselves catastrophically out of place. Paul's journey intertwines with quirky characters like waitress Julie (Teri Garr), ice-cream van saleswoman Gail (Catherine O’Hara), and gloomy club habitué June (Verna Bloom).

A Dreamlike Punchline

The film's climax, a desolate close-dance scene set to Peggy Lee’s haunting "Is That All There Is?," leaves us with a woozy and illusory feeling. It's not a nightmare, but a strange dream that lingers long after the credits roll.

Conclusion

After Hours defies easy categorization. Scorsese's road work has become a cinematic gem, inviting us to explore the unexpected and embrace the peculiar.

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