Log Line

A bored young office worker becomes embroiled in the surreal world of the late-night Soho neighborhood and attempts to return to the unexciting comfort of the world he knows.

Overview

Medium: Film

Writer(s): Joseph Minion

Director(s): Martin Scorsese

Production Co.(s): The Geffen Company, Double Play

When we-the-audience first meet Paul, the main character in After Hours, he is teaching a coworker how to use an office word processing system (in an era when such systems were not readily available on every personal computer). The work is mundane, and he seems largely disinterested in the task. When the coworker begins to share his own aspirations to transcend his current position and someday publish a magazine, Paul surveys the office in which he works, and we understand that his disinterest extends well beyond the task at hand—to his work life in general. A brief glimpse of his private life that evening reveals, as well, a general ennui that pervades his home life as a single man living in New York.

Late that night, while sitting alone in a local diner reading a novel—just to free himself of the confining boredom of his apartment—Paul encounters Marcy, a nervous and attractive young woman who engages him in small talk about the odd behavior of the cashier and about an artist friend she lives with who makes and sells plaster-of-Paris paperweights in the shape of a bagel with cream cheese. Under the pretense of an interest in the paperweights, Paul obtains her telephone number and thereby lays the groundwork for the ordeal that will define the rest of his night.

When he calls the number shortly after returning to his apartment, Marcy invites him to visit her in Soho—an invitation that he might ordinarily be hesitant to accept given the lateness of the hour (11:32pm). But he is compelled to accept in this case, not only by the prospect of a sexual encounter with her but by the chance to take a brief excursion from the life that he finds so stultifying.

The cab ride to Marcy's Soho apartment proves to be a harrowing preview of his night as it will unfold. The driver races through the streets of New York as if the taxi were being chased by demons. And when Paul places a twenty-dollar bill (his only cash) in the payment cradle en route, it blows out the window, leaving him nearly broke and unable to pay the cab fare—which angers the cabby and leaves Paul stranded in an unfamiliar place with almost no money.

As soon as Paul steps into the large, artsy loft that Marcy shares with her sculptress friend Kiki, it is clear that he is on unfamiliar ground and has entered a world whose denizens are prone to behaviors that are out of the ordinary. Kiki is frank in her conversation and uninhibited in her manner of dress, and Marcy appears to be emotionally unstable and subject to wild mood swings, having married a man who now lives far away (and to whom she writes every day), having just broken up with her boyfriend, and possibly sporting burn scars that might recall to Paul an uncomfortable memory from his youth.

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