One of the best movies of 1985 came and went without a lot of fanfare from critics or audiences. Then it did what all great cult films do: it endured. Today, that film, Into the Night, remains a favorite among cult movie lovers, especially those of us with a serious affection for the underappreciated "one crazy night" sub-genre. Think Martin Scorsese's After Hours (1985), or Adventures in Babysitting (1987). "One crazy night" films typically involve a character, or characters, journeying "into the night" and experiencing the kind of wild adventures that can only be found in large urban centers after dark. This style of film was especially prevalent in the 1980s.
With Into the Night, writer Ron Koslow and director John Landis turned in one of the sub-genre's best efforts, and a personal favorite of yours truly. The film revels in that after hours "anything goes" style necessary for any "one crazy night" film to succeed. It's set in Los Angeles and populated with cameos by an endless parade of filmmaking friends and colleagues of Landis's, including Amy Heckerling, Paul Mazursky, Jim Henson, Lawrence Kasdan, Paul Bartel, Rick Baker, and too many more to note here. Yet the key ingredient to the film's everlasting appeal lies in the pitch-perfect casting and performances of the two leads: Jeff Goldblum and Michelle Pfeiffer.
Goldblum is ridiculously good as the depressed insomniac Ed Okin. Miserable at his aerospace engineering job and growing more distant from his wife every day, things come to head when he discovers his wife's been cheating on him. It's late at night, he hops in the car, and simply drives off, with no destination in mind. He just needs to get away—from work, his wife, his life. Every movement or line delivery of Goldblum's is informed by Ed's catatonic existence.
Ed winds up at the airport, where drop-dead gorgeous jewel thief Diana (Pfeiffer) hops into Ed's car and tells him to floor it because the Iranians are trying to kill her—yup, we're definitely in the 1980s! Ed and Diane drive off—into the night!—and what follows is a series of madcap encounters with bumbling yet ruthless killers (including David Bowie as a mustachioed, eccentric hitman) and a wild assortment of kooky Angelenos, with the action jumping from one late-night spot to the next. All of this insanity allows Goldblum and Pfeiffer to show off their strong comedic skills.
The chemistry between Pfeiffer and Goldblum is palpable from their first enounter. We believe their romantic attraction, but its the even-deeper connection between two lost souls that really sells it. Diana and Ed may seem different on the surface, but they share an understanding of what it's like to feel worthless and unloved. In each other's eyes, they see a new hope, for something more, something better. It really is one of the most beautiful cinematic representations of how two people can connect on such a deep level that it almost feels mystical.
I'm a firm believer that Diana is one of Pfeiffer's greatest performances. Here's what I wrote last year:
Hair shorn into a beautifully disheveled bob cut, flashing that thousand-megawatt smile, and wearing a red leather jacket better than even Michael Jackson ever did, Pfeiffer is simply electric. Her natural-born charisma bursts forth in every scene. Her performance is so full of life, so beautifully wounded and soulful, that you don't know whether to laugh or cry, so you just do both.Her performance is so electrifying that any male lead might suffer in comparison. Not Goldblum, though. He looks at Pfeiffer throughout with great affection, and makes Ed's reawakening resonate with great clarity. As the night progresses and the mayhem builds, Goldblum masterfully moves us through Ed's reemergence from the depths of depression. Towards the end of the film, Ed is trying to talk a terrorist out of shooting Diana in the packed Los Angeles International Airport. It's the sort of thing we can't imagine the character doing before Diana dropped into his life, but by this point, thanks to Goldblum's performance, we believe it.
There are few movies that hold as special a place in my heart as Into the Night. It's one of those comfort food movies that I always reach for, over and over, no matter my mood. If I'm feeling content and simply want to extend those good vibes, I'll watch and revel in the extraordinary performances and Landis's gloriously surrealist-absurdist tone and style. And if I'm depressed, throwing on Into the Night reminds me that if Ed and Diana can make it, then dammit so will I.
Just a quick note on the film's current availability. Shout Factory! released it on Blu-ray just about two years ago now, and it's well worth the twenty bucks or whatever it might cost now. The transfer is beautiful, and special features include a B.B. King music video—featuring costars Pfeiffer, Goldblum, Dan Akroyd, and for reasons unknown Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy, vamping as King's backup band!—and an extended, brand-new interview with Goldblum, who, it should be noted, looks as sartorially sharp as ever. The actor provides great insight into where he was at in his career at the time he made Into the Night, plus offers fun tidbits about making the film. But the crown jewel of the interview has to be when Goldblum extemporaneously spins an impromptu sequel out of thin air! As Goldblum tells it, Diana and Ed share a moment after the end of the movie, but then move on. Ed is crushed. Diana starts singing with the Baker Boys, changing her name to Susie Diamond. Ed stumbles on his muse performing at a jazz club. After mentioning how he plays a little piano, he and Diana/Susie begin performing music together. How badly do you want that film to exist now?!? The entire bit is an astonishing bit of improvising from the master storyteller, Goldblum, and highly recommended for fans of the actor and the film.
This post is part of the Jeff Goldblum Blogathon, 2019.