Monday 2 May 2016

The Night Before

The Night Before, out now on Blu-Ray and DVD and directed by Jonathan Levine (50/50, Warm Bodies) is a festive-themed comedy about three friends going out for the last time on Christmas Eve together. Ten years before, Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) loses both his parents in a car crash, and his two best friends, Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie), vow to be his family from then on. Fast forward to the present day, and each one is struggling with their own issues, which have a big impact on how the night out goes – Isaac is about to become a first-time father, Chris is secretly using steroids to impact his sport performance, and Ethan still loves the woman who left him three months earlier due to him not being able to commit. Putting these thoughts to one side, the trio go in search of the Nutcracka Ball – supposedly the best party in New York – but have some strange experiences waiting for them.

Bromance movies are quite a big thing now – sometimes obvious, and sometimes subtle. This is something that worked really well in this film, as the characters were well-developed and the bond between them was clear. However, I wasn’t so sure about the rest of characters – some of them seemed very unrealistic (would an 8 months pregnant woman really give her husband an entire box of drugs to use on a night out?!), and others just weren’t all that interesting. Michael Shannon played really interesting character called Mr. Green (the local drug dealer, of course), and I felt it was really him that saved the entire support cast. As for the three leads – it wasn’t there best. Seth Rogen was hilarious as always, and the scenes that were just about him were actually really funny and well-scripted. Unfortunately, every time he left the screen it ended up clich├ęd, or just plain dull. Some of the scenes were really surreal, but again these only really worked when Rogen had something to do with them.

Despite the film being largely about drugs, the parts without the drugs were probably the best bits. The film got weirdly heartfelt towards the end, but it left me feeling more positive about it all than any other bit. Had the drug-related parts been mostly removed (apart from Isaac’s ridiculous phone rant), then it would have made a much better viewing – I’m not really sure what that says about the film, but it doesn’t sound too positive. There was a lot of emphasis on trying to show the drug effects to the viewer – this sometimes worked, but the generalised brightened colours and wavy distortion of the image was overdone and cheesy.

It was also more emotional than I’d expected, and I wish they’d explored this further throughout the film. I know it’s supposed to be a comedy, but it could have benefitted from more adult drama. The Night Before actually conveys a powerful message – don’t make excuses for what goes in your life, and confront the difficult parts, rather than hiding behind a mask. Sadly, the film didn’t follow its own advice – it skimmed over most of the difficult parts, preferring to hide behind the mask of drug-induced bromance.

Maybe I’m not the right audience for this type of film, but I wasn’t impressed overall – it wasn’t clever, and it wasn’t as funny as it could have been. It might be quite a nice light-hearted film to watch with your friends if there’s nothing else on, but I doubt it would make it into anyone’s favourites list. My advice? Watch Human Traffic if you want a realistic portrayal of a chemically-enhanced night out, and stick to The Hangover if you want something funny .

The Night Before seems to be emulating both of them, but it just doesn’t work the way it should have. 2/5.


Hannah Read

The Night Before at CeX

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