We all have movie genres we love, but many of us take it a notch deeper, even, with an all-abiding affection for certain subgenres that most casual movie viewers might not even recognize as existing. Usually though, once you notice them, you can’t stop seeing them everywhere.
The “one crazy night” subgenre is pure manna from the gods for me. The scenarios might differ slightly from film to film, but they all share one major similarity: they focus on a protagonist, or in most cases two or more protagonists, navigating their way through one wild night. Many of the best were made in the 1980s and take place in the big, eerily quiet city after dark, where the fears that fueled white flight in the 1970s can be mined for drama, suspense, and even comedy.
The best of this subgenre are some of my favorite films, period. I’m thinking especially of Adventures in Babysitting (1987), After Hours (1985), Dazed and Confused (1993), Can’t Hardly Wait (1998), and a few others. Sometimes the action takes place over multiple crazy nights but retains the same sort of urgency and headlong momentum of the best of the subgenre – another Martin Scorsese film, Bringing out the Dead (1999), comes to mind. Even the most mediocre-to-bad examples can still be a fun ride, like The Night Before (1988) starring the very young and impossibly cute paring of Keanu Reeves and Lori Loughlin, and with the cheeky tagline, “A guy can get into a lot of trouble after dark.”
My favorite one crazy night film, though, has to be John Landis’s underrated 1985 masterpiece, Into the Night. Sure, it stars a certain actress I prattle on about all the time, but beyond Michelle Pfeiffer’s standout performance as jewel smuggler with a heart of gold Diana, there’s so much to love about this film. Jeff Goldblum is wonderful as the insomniac Ed Okin. Together, he and Pfeifer have truly magical chemistry – something that feels even beyond romantic, but rather a deeper, almost spiritual connection between the two. Diana and Ed are lost souls, each in their own way, and together for one crazy night running from terrorists through nighttime Los Angeles they find that sort of once-or-twice in a lifetime connection we all yearn for.
I think about Into the Night a lot. Always have. These days, with all that’s going on in the world, I think about it even more, if that’s possible. Something about one crazy night films has always provided me with great comfort, and by watching Into the Night repeatedly over the years I’ve come to realize what that is: it’s the aching, beautiful humanity of these films that attracts me, and makes me feel connected to them. Connected just like Ed is to Diana. There’s something so uplifting, so heartening about their shared adventure. It reminds me of similar – although far less dangerous – adventures I’ve had over the years with friends. Some of these friends have become lifelong friends or even my life partner, while others were girlfriends I haven’t seen since the 1990s, but what they all shared in common is that they were the kind of people I wanted to take adventures with into the night.
That’s what makes Into the Night so special. The film is chock full of eccentric weirdos played by a cast of thousands, including David Bowie, Dan Akroyd, Amy Heckerling, Paul Mazursky, Clu Gulager, David Cronenberg, and dozens more. Heck, even Michelle’s sister Dedee Pfeiffer shows up as a hooker But at its heart, the film is about Ed and Diana, two lonely people thrown together by circumstance who journey into the Los Angeles evening together, discovering more about each other and themselves along the way.
Journeys of self discovery are really at the heart of the best (and even worst) one crazy night films. Ed and Diana are the pair I most want to run off with into the night – sorry, I can’t stop using the film’s title in sentences. I relate so much to them both. I’ve been down and despairing at times in my life, just like Ed. Fighting the daily grind of workplace drudgery, or almost feeling like I’m not an active participant in my life are experiences Ed and I – and most people – can relate to. Diana epitomizes hope to me. Like all of her best performances, Pfeiffer gives Diana a hard-earned sensitivity that makes her extremely likable, the kind of character you both want to save and be saved by. Which is probably how Ed feels towards her, too. Like Ed, she’s lonely. Yet she exudes a warmth and light that acts as a beacon to Ed and the viewer, even if she doesn’t see it in herself. That’s why their relationship is so special. Together, they prove that they each matter, to someone, and therefore to themselves.
I’m waxing romantically about this film because I love it, for all the reasons I’ve detailed. Sometimes a movie just speaks to your heart and soul in ways that transcend the experience of simply watching it – instead, you feel like you’re living inside the movie, like you know Ed and Diana intimately because parts of each of them are inside of you, too. Into the Night affirms the very real potential of people to be kind to one another, to support each other, and to just love each other without any conditions attached. That’s why I keep returning to it over the years, and especially at times like right now when my faith in humanity is challenged on a regular basis.
I’m realizing that it’s been too many months since my last trip back into the night (oops, I did it again) with Ed and Diana. I’m definitely in need of another journey alongside these two characters who, together, just make my heart sing. Comfort films for the soul don’t have to be treacly. There’s nothing cheesy about the deep strain of humanity running through Into the Night. It’s simply honest, organic, and life affirming. That’s why it’ll always rank atop my personal list of one crazy night films.
Long live Ed and Diana.