Directed by: James DeMonaco
Premise: Set on Long Island on a summer night in 1982, the Italian-American community packs the local theater for the premiere of Rocky III. After the screening, members of a middle-class family face various personal crises.
What Works: This is the Night is set on a summer evening in 1982 and the film looks and feels of its time and place. This is a period picture that mostly looks back fondly at the 1980s. However, filmmaker James DeMonaco does not sanitize the period. This is the Night includes some of the rough edges of its setting which gives the movie some credibility. This is the Night is a portrait of the Dedea family and the film is strongest as it deals with the family members’ various struggles. Frank Grillo and Naomi Watts play the parents with Grillo the chef and manager of an event hall and Watts a stay-at-home mom. Their marriage feels authentic and Grillo and Watts include subtle details that make their relationship credible. Jonah Hauer-King plays their eldest son and this character faces the biggest stakes. Hauer-King plays the character’s internal struggle quite well and his scenes with Watts are many of the best moments in the movie.
What Doesn’t: For a story that is built around the release of Rocky III, there’s very little of the 1982 film in This is the Night. That may be due to copyright issues; This is the Night was produced by Blumhouse and distributed by Universal but the Rocky films are owned by MGM. But even allowing for that restriction, This is the Night doesn’t work elements of Rocky III into its story the way that Son of Rambow did with First Blood. As a result, the use of Rocky III comes across arbitrary. Much of This is the Night centers upon a trio of teenagers and this aspect of the film is a standard one-crazy-night in high school tale. The boys’ adventures are not terribly imaginative and the film doesn’t push them into a crisis that tests their friendship or their manhood. The storylines of the other family members are much more interesting but the resolution of those conflicts often feels truncated. This is especially true of the older brother who comes out of the closet with the encouragement of his mother. That subplot sets up a conflict between father and son that is resolved as quickly as it is introduced.
DVD extras: Available on Netflix.
Bottom Line: This is the Night is an agreeable one-crazy-night movie. The film opts for simplicity and resolves its conflicts too easily but the picture succeeds as a generally likable portrait of a family.
Episode: #888 (January 23, 2022)