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The various trailers that have been released for Jonathan Levine’s The Night Before have done a good job painting the movie as a fun, holiday-set stoner comedy - but while that’s a partially fair assessment, the director didn’t exactly look to those kinds of films when he was putting the feature together. Instead, he actually looked to the work of filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Stanley Kubrick, and Spike Lee – specifically After Hours, Eyes Wide Shut, and 25th Hour.
Levine mentioned these three titles when I had the chance to sit down with him earlier this month during a Los Angeles press day for The Night Before. While discussing the comedy, I told him that the film very much reminded me of After Hours - being a dark comedy that plays out over the course of one night – and the director confirmed not only was the Scorsese film a reference point for himself and cinematographer Brandon Trost, but that it was one of the three titles mentioned above. Despite being tonally different from what The Night Before was going for, the Kubrick film, for example, helped them grasp a sense of the atmosphere the director wanted to create. He explained,
Eyes Wide Shut was a big visual reference. To me, this movie is this weird kind of fable, and it’s like almost this weird kind of like Kafkaesque weird. Not to sound pretentious about it, but it definitely exists in a kind of hyper reality.
Levine unfortunately didn’t go in-depth about exactly what 25th Hour added to the palette while making The Night Before, but he did explain his movie’s relationship to Scorsese’s aforementioned 1984 comedy. From that film, he respected its ability to stay entirely grounded, while also keeping the audience completely unaware of what’s going to be thrown at the protagonist next. Said the director,
After Hours is a great one too, because it always keeps you on your toes. It always is surprising you, and yet at the same time it’s relatable in a weird way. Just the fundamental premise that you’re going to go somewhere to try to get laid, and fitting into a world that you don’t really know.
Watching The Night Before, you’ll clearly see references to and inspiration from everything from A Christmas Carol to Home Alone, but given the comedy’s special structure it’s interesting to know the more dramatic titles that wound up feeding into Jonathan Levine’s vision for the movie. The good news is that all of it adds up to the funniest film of 2015.
The Night Before arrives in theaters this Friday, November 20th.