After Hours – “Surrender Dorothy” and “Oh wow!”

I watched Martin Scorsese’s After Hours(1985) this evening, and I really do love this film. And while many might consider it a minor Scorsese film, for me it is one of his best. Right up there with Taxi Driver (1976), Goodfellas (1990), and Raging Bull (1980). It’s a beautifully wrought existential comedy that is perfectly played by Griffin Dunne, whose move from acting to producing is something I regret when I think of his performance in this role. He’s absolutely convincing in his slow and subtle exasperation with a night from hell, and he in many ways underacts through a kind of simultaneously sleazy, uptight, and out-of-place working stiff who is simply having a very bad night. Just about every scene is memorable, but I’ll pick two in particular, the one above has Roseanna Arquette in what might be her finest role as the deeply unstable object of Dunne’s misguided affection. The short tale about her film obsessed husband reminds me of Scorsese himself, especially if you have seen or heard him talk about movies, he is absolutely euphoric.

But the other clip, which is even closer to my heart in many ways, features Dunne’s character, Paul Hackett, at the end of his rope as he is being pursued throughout Soho by a vigilante mob. He ends a futile call to the police with a very simple exclamation, “Oh wow!” But that is no regular old “Oh wow,” for the way he says it has stuck with me for decades. In fact, I haven’t stopped coming back to it and repeating it since I first saw this film in high school over twenty years ago. It has in many ways guided me through my adult life, and supported me through so many a rough time. It’s my simple, special movie quote shared only with one another. Well, at least until now. Enjoy!

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7 Responses to After Hours – “Surrender Dorothy” and “Oh wow!”

  1. Ed Webb says:

    You’re right (of course) – one of the most striking moments in the movie, and played just right. Borderline bathos, but staying just this side.

  2. On this we can agree. Definitely one of my favorite Scorsese films. And of all of them the one which I have returned to watch most. I just love how intimate and warm the strangeness in it is. It’s not the Coen bros. or Tarantino. It’s like them, very much like their work in some ways, but it is warm in a way they are not (how weird to say that about a Scorcese film!) The city is a living throbbing thing in After Hours, whereas every location the Coen bros or Tarantino films is a desert, literal or metaphorical.

    I like both approaches, but this approach is rarer these days and I miss it.

  3. Incidentally, one of the closer movies to this feel I’ve sen lately is In Bruges. It’s a little too perfect in the way it organizes things, and too stagey, but a similar feel in many ways.

  4. Flash says:

    Must have watched this movie at least 20 times over the past 20 years. Has anyone got a clip of the shark on the toilet wall scene? So brief but it conveys everything 🙂

  5. Peter says:

    I entered “Griffin Dunne” “After Hours” and “oh wow” and here I am. I just found myself saying this in my head (I don’t even remember what triggered it because I almost immediately started laughing). It’s iconic for me as well, is my point. Talk about nailing a line.


  6. Peter says:

    (Another phrase I find rattles around my head and emerges at appropriate times: “I didn’t know that–I didn’t know anything about that!”)

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