NIGHT BEFORE, THE
On Christmas eve, three lifelong friends, two of whom are Jewish, spend the night in New York City looking for the Holy Grail of Christmas parties.
Review by Louise Keller:
With its zany cocktail of friends, unruly Christmas cheer and illicit drugs, The Night Before relies on its absurdity to make it zing. It nearly gets there thanks to the dynamic between its high-energy cast, but it's not funny enough and the pay off is too slight. To its credit, beneath the smoke and mirrors of silliness, there are some basic truths: fear of change, impending parenthood, commitment and coping with celebrity. This is classic Seth Rogan territory - he does the stoner genre all too convincingly, while Michael Shannon's uber-strange drug dealer Mr Green is a nice surprise.
A brief prologue depicts the 14 year old history between close friends Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) and how they have forged a Christmas Eve tradition together. Every year Ethan and Chris don the Santa and reindeer Christmas jumpers, while Isaac's flags his Jewishness. As usual, they dance on a floor piano, eat Chinese food and sing karaoke at the beginning of the night but this year there is much more to come. The little box filled with an assortment of illegal drugs that Isaac's pregnant wife Betsy (Jillian Bell) has gifted him is the first clue. The Red Bull stretch limo offered to Chris as his new status as celebrity sports star is the second, and lastly are the stolen invitations to the highly sought after Nutcracka Ball that Ethan acquired.
Rogan is hilarious as he mixes his drugs - mushrooms, cocaine and weed are a heady mix - and there's an iPhone confessional video about his new role as a father, as recorded in the toilets. Fans of Pineapple Express and This is the End will relate. Shannon creates an interesting character with ease; the scenes in which Mr Green spooks each of the three men in the front seat of his car are wonderfully edgy. The other story strands involving Ethan's former girlfriend Diana (Lizzy Caplan), to whom he was unable to commit and Chris's obsession with social media and his new found fame are less than inspiring - mostly because we don't really warm to any of the characters.
Director Jonathan Levine (who also wrote the screenplay along with three others) gets a head of steam up in the final reel, when a string of celebrities find their way into the narrative at the amazing Nutcracka Ball. Funniest of all is James Franco playing himself and watch out for Miley Cyrus, Jason Mantzoukas, Jason Jones and Randall Park. It's coarse, politically incorrect, pretty stupid with a focus on drug and sex references. The Midnight Mass scene is amusing, but overdone. For those looking for something beyond the saccharine Christmas fare, this may well be an option.
Email this article
NIGHT BEFORE, THE (MA15+)
CAST: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie, Jillian Bell, Lizzy Caplan, Helene Yorke, Ilana Glazer, Aaron Hill, Tracy Morgan, James Franco, Miley Cyrus
PRODUCER: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen, James Weaver
DIRECTOR: Jonathan Levine
SCRIPT: Jonathan Levine, Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, Evan Goldberg
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Brandon Trost
EDITOR: Zene Baker
MUSIC: Marco Beltrami, Miles Hankins
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Annie Spitz
RUNNING TIME: 101 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 3, 2015