Director: Jonathan Levine
Writers: Jonathan Levine (screenplay), Kyle Hunter (screenplay)
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie, Jillian Bell, Michael Shannon, Lizzy Caplan, Heléne Yorke
“The Night Before” is set on Christmas eve with three lifelong friends Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackiespend) spending the night in New York City looking for the Holy Grail of Christmas parties. Unfortunately for Ethan, as time has gone on, both Isaac and Chris although possibly not maturing have lives of their own. Chris has become a very famous athlete living most of his personal life on live broadcasting via social media and Isaac is now married and him and his wife are expecting their first born. Ethan on the other hand is living on nostalgia and hides away from commitment and responsibility and is determined to have the night of their lives on their final Christmas eve.
The film is about the changes in people’s lives as they get older and hanging onto nostalgia can hold you back from living your life. This is mostly the case with Ethan played by the brilliant and charismatic Joseph Gordon-Levitt who as a young boy lost both his parents around the Christmas holidays and through his best friends Isaac and Chris became their own little family watching out for each other in their younger days. Every Christmas Eve they would play out their ritual of very funny antics.
Although technically a Christmas movie “The Night Before” is a comedy film in the same mold as Pineapple Express (2008) some folk might say a “Stoner Comedy” but I feel that term doesn’t complement the storyline. The plot itself is about these three friends all living different lives and have their insecurities about their futures. Although Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character Ethan is supposed to be the main focus, I felt Isaac (Rogen) was the show stealer and in two particulars scenes involving a “talking” baby in a church and the nativity set outside the church. Gordon-Levitt is given top billing and the storyline focuses around his character that serves mostly as a master of ceremonies.
Ethan has issues committing to his ex girlfriend that he realises needs more than he thought. Isaac appears to be very straight laced at the beginning of the movie which surprised me with Seth Rogen restraining himself from his usual outrageous performances. Nevertheless, we don’t have to wait long to see this character unfold after his wife gives him a box of pick n mix assorted drugs as a one night only gift. Unfortunately although hysterical, the character overshadows the other two and in more ways Chris played by Anthony Mackiespend. Don’t get me wrong Mackiespend is fantastic as the more successful of the three but underlines the insecurities that come with his found fame.
I can’t let this review go without mentioning the brilliant Michael Shannon as Mr. Green. I’ve never seen a character who is unsettling but at the same time soothing. He is of course the guy you go to for some weed but although playing the stoner there is also something quite philosophical about his character and although used perfectly in his role. I still wanted to see more of this madman.
As far as “The Night Before” goes, it’s more than just a comedy. The sentimental element is there that is traditional with the holiday season. Perhaps it doesn’t have those memorable lines or scenes that other holiday movies have. It’s an enjoyable but strange little movie that I think everyone should give a try. For me I only had one niggle with the film and that was Christmas Eve felt a lot longer than 24 hours. We’re a good hour into this film and a lot of events have happened in this time leading to the party of a lifetime when suddenly they are all at Chris’ Mum’s house having dinner. This is after a few bars and a few bizarre incidents have happened in chasing down a thief and meeting Mr. Green. Apart from that the movie moves along okay and you will have a laugh or six along the way. Watchable and Recommendable.