Critics love to talk about chemistry. A crucial factor in the success or failure of a movie, chemistry can be hard to express in words.
A great way to understand the full range of chemistry in a cast is to look at "About Last Night." The romantic comedy not only features the soft chemistry of a couple who appear deeply in love, but it also shows the kind of comedic chemistry that magnifies funny moments.
"About Last Night" is not so much a remake of the 1986 "About Last Night …" starring Rob Lowe and Demi Moore, but a return to the source material, David Mamet's "Sexual Perversity in Chicago." The film is already strides ahead of most comedies because of the witty and brilliant writing of Mamet.
The setting has been changed to Los Angeles and some of the particulars have been adjusted to reflect a more updated approach to love and romance. This version is actually closer to the edginess of Mamet's original production.
Changes aside, the great romantic chemistry between Michael Ealy and Joy Bryant — plus the comedic chemistry of Kevin Hart and Regina Hall — makes the movie like one of those hard Valentine candy hearts: sweet and funny.
Ealy (rapidly becoming one of the strongest leading men in films) plays Danny, a restaurant supplies dealer who is coming out of a relationship that's left him alone and blue. He meets Debbie (Bryant) when they are pushed together by their best friends, Bernie (Hart) and Joan (Hall).
Sparks fly between Ealy and Bryant, making it easy to get swept up in the romance. In typical Mamet style, what appears to be a match made in romance heaven begins to show signs of dark skies. Stress that comes from job problems, jealousy and the aftershocks of previous relationships shakes the foundation of their love.
Because both actors sell the emotions with so much conviction, the romance feels personal.
And then there's Hart and Hall. Watching these two trade comic jabs — even while they are in the middle of the throes of passion — is like watching two great tennis players. Each one returns the other's comic serve with equal velocity. Their conversations sound so natural that it helps draw the audience in for plenty of big laughs.
Hart can be a little manic, but in this case that energy works because Hall matches him beat for beat. This movie would have been just as entertaining had it focused on them. Having two solid story lines that work in such harmony is a rare find.
It's always great when a film has chemistry. It's a bonus when there's both romantic and comedic. From heart to Hart, this is a sweet Valentine treat.
"About Last Night," rated R for sexual content, language, drug use. Stars Michael Ealy, Joy Bryant, Kevin Hart, Regina Hall. Directed by Steve Pink. Running time: 100 minutes. Grade: B