The Night Before: Non potest amor cum timore misceri

Hopscotch Friday is pleased to welcome guest reviewer Sancrox Thrumster, self-acknowledged pioneer of the hot-take and expert in pretty much everything. Sancrox is an enthusiastic Guardian Comment is Free contributor and disgraced former Salon correspondent. When he’s not sticking it to ‘the man’, Sancrox can be found hijacking numerous social justice causes, pre-writing his Facebook comments takedowns and fomenting online outrage for his own self-promotional means.

Sancrox is a vocal member of The Union and the last pop-cultural artifact he legitimately (perhaps accidentally) enjoyed was Season 2, Episode 15 of Beauty & The Beast (The Watcher) in 1989.

So then, to Sony Pictures Entertainment’s latest vile assault on the proletariat, Jonathan Levine’s clarion call to The One Percent, The Night Before.

This fresh celluloid affront, which showcases the alleged charms of leads Seth Rogen (Night of the Living Carrots), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Danielle Steel’s Changes) and Anthony Mackie (Real Steel), is a dire Christmas fable obsessed with renouncing childish things and embracing so-called societal norms, i.e. conspicuous consumption and facile contemporary rituals designed to fill the aching existential void.

The ‘story’, then (were I to dare assign such an extravagant term); Isaac, Ethan and Chris, our well-heeled New Yorker protagonists, embark on one last Christmas Eve ‘bender’, a tradition upheld since 2001, when the three friends were righteous disruptors of the work/procreate/expire paradigm.

The catalyst for this youthful expression of festive camaraderie, the death of Ethan’s parents in an automobile accident, is in itself perhaps a metaphor for the demise of the automotive industry, suggesting the worker’s blue collar/red flag ideals subjugated and trampled, providing a toxic road map outlining the trio’s devolution into craven, capitalist sops.

It is here that I am reminded of legendary union-man Percival Stanley Brookfield’s (1875–1921) rousing, century-old observation: “there is only one hope…for civilisation as we know it, and that is that capitalism may be knocked on the head.”

Nevertheless, obsessed with the feeble societal drive to conform to the aforementioned ‘norms’ in pursuit of some misplaced notion of maturity and responsibility, Isaac, a father-to-be, and Chris, a ‘sporting hero’ with a disastrous secret, long to succumb to the hollow materialist narcosis of bourgeois ennui.

Ethan, however, still yearns for Diana (Lizzy Caplan), the woman to whom he could not commit, driven by the false notion that submission to heteronormative coupling will bring with it a sense of contentment and ‘fulfillment’, that his ‘bros’ have superficially attained via impending parenthood and crass, social media and product endorsement fuelled celebrity ubiquity.

The Night Before is framed around father-to-be Isaac’s consumption of a ‘heroic dose’, and the ensuing, banal consequences of this ‘mad-cap’ Heilige Nacht pilgrimage to a vapid celebration of Me-Generation hedonism (read: milquetoast) known as The Nutcracker’s Ball, where, of course, Ethan’s insipid ‘destiny’ awaits in the hastily sketched form of his ‘soul mate,’ Diana.

Here then, we find Levine’s bilious ‘film’ co-opting the shamanistic experience to facile ends, rejecting communion with unknowable pagan cosmic wisdom to embrace the cheap nostalgia of Christ’s Mass (I prefer Saturnalia) narratives past and a surrender to the slavery of subsistence via the teat of nostalgia and rote consumption.

Similarly, The Night Before yokes itself to desperate celebrity cameos and crass commercialism. Does the repeated appearance of the Red ‘Bull’ limousine perhaps in some way evoke the mythology of Theseus and the Minotaur, casting our protagonists’ quest as delving ever further into our personal moral labyrinth, a desperate subconscious quest to evoke meaning where none exists? Similarly, does the prominence afforded Miley Cyrus’ ‘hit’ ‘song’ Wrecking Ball perhaps indicate a subversive need to smash the state and liberate we poor proles?

Doubtful, dear audience.

The Night Before, then, is a numb capitulation to the brittle, cynical commercial exercise that is The Feast of Lights, a mindless cis-gendered romance steeped in bacchanalian debauch for a generation whose gaze is so intently focused inward that it is oblivious to the revelation of the collective and its elemental power.

I remain, eternally,

~ Sancrox Thrumster worker/poet/raconteur/provocateur/consciousness

*Saturnalia, I., 11, 12.

Originally published at www.hopscotchfriday.com.