The Night Before (2015)
I mean: this is exactly what you would expect based on the trailer. There are drugs; there are cameos; there is some message about growing up and taking responsibility while still enjoying life and friendship or whatever. Seth Rogen yells. It is not necessarily a “good” movie, but as soon as we hit the moment in the trailer where Seth Rogen starts doing Jesus-on-the-cross poses while wearing a Hannukah sweater, my viewing of The Night Before became inevitable, so. Some notes:
- The church scene in the trailer is probably, and not surprisingly, the best scene in the movie. I tend to be automatically anti-vomit comedy, and even here I don’t think it was strictly necessary, but like the “Pancakes; Divorce; Pancakes” episode of Review, I think the surrounding context for the vomiting is funny and well-constructed enough to almost justify it.
- Seth Rogen freaking out over his upcoming baby was also pretty great, especially in how that situation resolved itself with his wife finding the footage of his freak-out on his phone and not being upset at all. In general, in this sort of immature bro-y comedy, girlfriend/wife characters tend to be humorless shrews—or assigned to the straight man role, if we’re feeling charitable—and to some extent, The Night Before seems to consciously avoid that, so, like, good for you, movie.
- And yeah, fine, all of the James Franco business really worked for me.
- The existence of this movie is maybe more interesting from a religious studies standpoint than anything, because it’s such a Jewish Christmas movie that it’s kind of like: why even make it a Christmas movie? What does it mean for Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Lizzy Caplan to be playing gentiles in a Christmas movie? What does it mean for Ilana Glazer to be playing a Christmas-hating villain named Rebecca Grinch? What does it mean for a Christmas movie to be directed by a Jewish man and written by a team of screenwriters that is at least 75% Jewish1? And I mean, I definitely wouldn’t have watched this if it weren’t so Jewish, because why the fuck would I—a person who just the other day made a grocery store purchase of lox, babka, and generic brand Tums—watch a Christmas movie?
- (Lol this movie shares its name with a kind of terrible 1988 Keanu Reeves movie)
Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
Yes, good. More specifically, young Hugh Grant swearing excessively = YES. Also young Hugh Grant in this terrible outfit that frankly would not look at all out of place on a contemporary hipster = YES.
And no one in the movie comments on how ludicrous an outfit this is, which leads me to believe that is just a normal ’90s outfit? The print on the shirt/blouse is pretty fantastic, though:
I do not love Andie MacDowell and I don’t think I can justify that beyond “I do not find either her face or accent attractive” which is super shallow of me and makes me a terrible feminist, but there we are. But she doesn’t actually have that much screentime, despite being the female romantic lead. More time seems to be spent with the friend group of Hugh Grant’s character, which, yeah, works for me, and also gives us this fantastic jacket:
Finally, lol @ this whole scene:
Notting Hill (1999)
I would like this so much more if the female lead were played by basically anyone other than Julia Roberts (or Andie MacDowell, I guess) for similarly shallow reasons. And wow, the “I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her” line is super cringe-worthy; I don’t know that there’s any actress who could make that work, but Roberts certainly cannot.
That aside, Notting Hill was quite pleasant, and I don’t know, certainly between this, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and Bridget Jones’s Diary, I do like how Richard Curtis writes friend group interactions (also I think I need to rewatch The Boat That Rocked aka Pirate Radio).
Also, between this, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and About Time, what is it with Richard Curtis and English guy/American woman romances, especially given that his irl partner is English? Is it a way to highlight the dynamic with the male characters being like “oh I’m so very British and repressed” or what? Actually, I am sure there are some college film studies papers on this if I could be bothered to look.
Eddie the Eagle (2016)
I wasn’t expecting much from this, but at the same time, I kind of had to see it, because:
- Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman are both very watchable; I mean, based on just the trailer, I could see that neither of them is styled particularly attractively in this movie, but still, that charisma, man.
- The guarantee of at least one training montage set to ’80s music.
- I don’t care about sports in general, but Cool Runnings was a childhood favorite. And I mean, we are suckers for weirdly specific underdog stories featuring the British working class, aren’t we? (See also: Kinky Boots, Pride, Brassed Off)
- It’s produced by Matthew Vaughn, and yeah, I don’t necessarily love most of his movies, but they’re always, at the every least, slick and stylish enough to be engaging. He didn’t actually direct Eddie the Eagle, but one still assumes his involvement as producer means something.
So how was it? Not great, not terrible. There were some solid training montages, and the actual story that it’s based on is interesting enough that it validates the existence of this movie, for those of us who weren’t alive or in the UK for the real thing. Unclear how much the facts were stretched, but it certainly provides a kind of unique and refreshing message for a sports movie, in that the title character isn’t trying to be The Best; his dream is just to compete in the Olympics, and he accomplishes it by taking advantage of weird loopholes rather than being an amazing athlete. I mean, he also trains super hard, but as multiple characters point out over the course of the movie, he would have had to start as a child to achieve the same level of skill as the more traditional Olympic athletes. Still, there was a really great exchange—unfortunately, I can’t actually find the exact dialogue online yet—between Eddie and his coach (Hugh Jackman), where the coach is like, “If we train for another four years, you might actually have a shot at a medal. But if you enter now, you’ll make a fool of yourself. Don’t you want to win?” and Eddie’s just like, “Eh, not really. I only ever just wanted to participate?”
I appreciate that it was consistently well-lit, since it mostly takes place outdoors on snowy ski slopes during the daytime. That’s maybe the most weird and shallow criterion for evaluating a movie, but fuck it, sometimes one does not want to be trapped in darkness—both literal and figurative—for 2 hours3. That said, one of the only nighttime scenes involved Hugh Jackman’s character performing a super risky ski jump in, like, aviator sunglasses and jeans while smoking a cigarette—i.e. full-on Wolverine swagger mode—and it was ridiculous and amazing.
Some pretty basic criticisms:
- A lot of the character beats are super cliched—especially w.r.t. Eddie’s home life and the coach’s whole character arc.
- There’s some element of class snobbery that Eddie receives from the British Olympic officials/his future teammates—as opposed to the athletic snobbery he receives from the Scandinavian skiers—but I think that could have come across a bit more clearly? But that may be a cultural thing, and perhaps it was super obvious to British audiences.
- Taron Egerton adopts a lot of weird facial tics in this role that one assumes are based on the mannerisms of the real Eddie Edwards, but end up feeling kind of distracting and affected when one is more familiar with Egerton than Edwards.
1. Jonathan Levine, Evan Goldberg, and Ariel Shaffir, certainly; Kyle Hunter, who knows? ^
2. Apparently, Four Weddings and a Funeral actually predates the BBC Pride and Prejudice miniseries by over a year. ^
3. This is like probably the main reason I am uninterested the DC Extended Universe. ^