The Night Before movie review: twas the bromance before Christmas

MaryAnn’s quick take: It’s bogged down by too many derailing tangents, but the three appealing leads have a wonderful chemistry, and it gets close to the spirit of the season.
I’m “biast” (pro): love Joseph Gordon-Levitt
I’m “biast” (con): not a fan of grossout bromances
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
Get new reviews in your email in-box or in an app by becoming a paid Substack subscriber or Patreon patron.

Three best dude friends with pretty much nothing in common have nevertheless been engaged in an intense ongoing bromance for more than a decade, and they are about to embark on a would-be epic Christmas Eve blowout, a one-last “best fuckin’ night of our lives!” Which pretty much sounds like my nightmare movie scenario.

And yet The Night Before charmed me. Just a little, and in spite of its many problems. Pro athlete Chris (Anthony Mackie: Love the Coopers), expectant dad Isaac (Seth Rogen: Steve Jobs), and unrepentant slacker Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt: The Walk) may be an unlikely trio, but these three actors have so much wonderfully appealing chemistry together that it’s easy to overlook the implausibility of their friendship.

Their quest this Christmas Eve to finally get to the legendary New York City underground holiday party known as the Nutcracker Ball — which they’ve been hearing about for years but never managed to snag tickets to until now — is bogged down by too many derailing tangents, from a cocaine-fueled grossout encounter with a martini to the “let’s play videogames while we wait for our drug dealer to show up.” But there are nuggets of intrigue even here: after an awkward and halting introduction, the always magnificent Michael Shannon (99 Homes) as their mystical weed connection blossoms into something weirdly fun; and an accidental mobile-phone switcheroo that sees Isaac on the receiving end of some dick pix meant for someone else completely smashes the homophobic rabbit hole a movie like this would have gleefully gone down just a few years ago, and instead ends up embracing a warm, sweet, genuine okayness with bicuriosity.

The thing I usually hate about movies like this is how mean-spirited they can be. But this one actually manages to get close to an authentic, if totally unorthodox and unsentimental, spirit of the season as all about friends and family who accept you as you are and want to hang with you anyway.

See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of The Night Before for its representation of girls and women.

share and enjoy
If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.
If you haven’t commented here before, your first comment will be held for MaryAnn’s approval. This is an anti-spam, anti-troll, anti-abuse measure. If your comment is not spam, trollish, or abusive, it will be approved, and all your future comments will post immediately. (Further comments may still be deleted if spammy, trollish, or abusive, and continued such behavior will get your account deleted and banned.)
notify of
1 Comment
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
view all comments
Fri, Dec 11, 2015 6:25am

This is another racist movie where fat ugly Seth Rogen plays an explicitly Jewish character, while good-looking Jewish actors (Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Lizzy Caplan, this time) play non-Jews. As a matter of fact, despite being the son of two Jewish parents, Gordon-Levitt has never explicitly played his own ethnicity once in his entire 30 years of acting. Is there a problem, Joey?

This is the same racist trick Rogen pulls every time. He always casts himself as an explicit Jewish character opposite non-Jewish characters played by good-looking Jews (Paul Rudd, James Franco, Dave Franco, Zac Efron, Halston Sage, etc.).

And this new film is from the same studio, S.S.ony, that released last year’s Fury, about fighting Nazis during WWII. Fury starred no less than four Jews (Logan Lerman, Jon Bernthal, Jason Isaacs, and Shia LaBeouf), yet none of the characters were Jewish and Jews and the Holocaust were never mentioned. Gee, maybe they should have cast Seth Rogen as a “funny” Jewish soldier who died early on in the film.

Actors of fully Jewish background: Logan Lerman, Natalie Portman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mila Kunis, Bar Refaeli, James Wolk, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Julian Morris, Adam Brody, Esti Ginzburg, Kat Dennings, Gabriel Macht, Erin Heatherton, Odeya Rush, Anton Yelchin, Paul Rudd, Scott Mechlowicz, Lisa Kudrow, Lizzy Caplan, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Gal Gadot, Debra Messing, Robert Kazinsky, Melanie Laurent, Shiri Appleby, Justin Bartha, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Margarita Levieva, Elizabeth Berkley, Halston Sage, Seth Gabel, Corey Stoll, Mia Kirshner, Alden Ehrenreich, Eric Balfour, Jason Isaacs, Jon Bernthal, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy.

Andrew Garfield and Aaron Taylor-Johnson are Jewish, too (though I don’t know if both of their parents are).

Actors with Jewish mothers and non-Jewish fathers: Jake Gyllenhaal, Dave Franco, James Franco, Scarlett Johansson, Daniel Day-Lewis, Daniel Radcliffe, Alison Brie, Eva Green, Joaquin Phoenix, River Phoenix, Emmy Rossum, Rashida Jones, Jennifer Connelly, Sofia Black D’Elia, Nora Arnezeder, Goldie Hawn, Ginnifer Goodwin, Amanda Peet, Eric Dane, Jeremy Jordan, Joel Kinnaman, Ben Barnes, Patricia Arquette, Kyra Sedgwick, Dave Annable, Ryan Potter.

Actors with Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers, who themselves were either raised as Jews and/or identify as Jews: Ezra Miller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Alexa Davalos, Nat Wolff, Nicola Peltz, James Maslow, Josh Bowman, Winona Ryder, Michael Douglas, Ben Foster, Jamie Lee Curtis, Nikki Reed, Zac Efron, Jonathan Keltz, Paul Newman.

Oh, and Ansel Elgort’s father is Jewish, though I don’t know how Ansel was raised. Robert Downey, Jr. and Sean Penn were also born to Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers. Armie Hammer and Chris Pine are part Jewish.

Actors with one Jewish-born parent and one parent who converted to Judaism: Dianna Agron, Sara Paxton (whose father converted, not her mother), Alicia Silverstone, Jamie-Lynn Sigler.