A minor film genre emerged in the 1980s in which an uptight protagonist, usually a dude, crosses a threshold into an unexpected world that only appears when the sun sets. His adventure lasts until daybreak, and he experiences an existence wider and deeper than what’s usually concealed by his cubicle walls.
John Landis’s Into the Night, Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild, and Martin Scorsese’s After Hours aren’t really classics, but for certain nebbishy, middle-aged suburb-dwellers, the stories have always evoked lost possibilities — or even accessible ones. Never mind that the worlds those films illustrated weren’t as vivid or as strange as their directors thought they were.
In that sense, Amateur Night is a broadly typical example of the form. But directors Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse invert it: Those earlier films’ worlds were products of a strong economy; this one emerges from the post-recession hangover. Where the older protagonists were boomers escaping stultifying, upper-middle-class lives into gritty, neon Narnias, Guy (Jason Biggs) is an overeducated millennial who flees unemployment for a job driving sex workers around Los Angeles.
Over the course of one night, Nikki (Janet Montgomery) herds him through a strange new set of responsibilities: chauffeuring her to meet johns; washing lube-smothered dildos in a sink; raking small bills from the carpet at a bachelor party. Besides the narrative reversal, Montgomery is the only interesting part of the film — smart, obstinate, and ambitious. The gross-out scenes and raunchy banter between the film’s sex workers are funny, but its world is pretty small and unsurprising.
Directed by Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse
Opens August 5, Village East Cinema