Director: Lucia Aniello
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer, and Zoë Kravitz, Ty Burrell, Demi Moore, Ryan Cooper, Paul W. Downs
Runtime: 1 hr 42 mins
Rating: R21 (Mature Content)
Released By: Sony Pictures Releasing International
Official Website: https://www.facebook.com/RoughNightMovie
Opening Day: 24 August 2017
Synopsis: In Rough Night, five best friends from college reunite 10 years later for a wild bachelorette weekend in Miami. Their hard partying takes a hilariously dark turn when they accidentally kill a male stripper. Amidst the craziness of trying to cover it up, they're ultimately brought closer together when it matters most.
On paper, it may have sounded like a good idea to cross ‘Bridesmaids’ with ‘The Hangover’ and add a smattering of indie comedy a la ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’ and ‘Very Bad Things’. Yet ‘Rough Night’ is a lot less funny than it wants or promises to be. Sure, you get plenty of raunchy sight gags, filthy dialogue and drunken debauchery, but ‘Broad City’ alums Lucia Aniello and Paul W. Downs struggle to wring humour out of its rather twisted premise – that is, of five longtime college friends reuniting for a Miami bachelorette party weekend committing unwitting manslaughter on the male stripper they hired for the occasion, and then scrambling to find ways of disposing his corpse.
Leading the quintet is Scarlett Johansson’s aspiring state-senator candidate Jess, who is about to get married to her sweet fiancé Peter (Downs). Jess is joined for the weekend by her brassy, possessive best friend Alice (Jillian Bell), who has planned the weekend down to penis-nose eyeglasses and penis-shaped pasta; lesbian social activist Frankie (Ilana Glazer); her one-time lover Blair (Zoe Kravitz), now a chic business executive in the middle of a custody battle; and last but not least Jess’ Australian-exchange student chum Pippa (Kate McKinnon), whose presence immediately rouses Alice’s jealousy. For the first half-hour, the fivesome seem out to prove that they can behave just as badly, if not more so, than the opposite sex, whether is it out-drinking them or out-snorting them in one bar or club after another around Miami Beach. Other than being utterly irresponsible though, there is nothing as outrageous as say Jada Pinkett Smith peeing onto a street crowd below while suspended midair on zipline, so those who have seen this summer’s far superior ‘Girls Trip’ may be underwhelmed by the shenanigans on display here.
The night really begins after they return to the plush beach house they have rented for the weekend and the requisite male stripper (Ryan Cooper) turns up but lands up dead. It’s not a murder to be sure; rather, in her excitement, Alice jumps on his lap, causing him to fall backwards and hit his head fatally on the fireplace. As you’d probably expect, some collective mayhem ensues, including a debate over whether they are guilty of involuntary manslaughter, followed by a subsequent game of hide-the-body. If you’ve seen the trailers, you would have seen that the girls will at some point place the dead stripper atop a sex swing and stick on a pair of joke glasses with a penis nose on him. Besides that, the only other amusing gag has Blair engaging in a bit of seduction with a pair of randy swingers next door played by Ty Burrell and Demi Moore. Oh yes, despite the sheer energy of Bell and McKinnon, the comedy goes limp very quickly, and not even a couple of late third-act twists can redeem an otherwise monotonous trudge towards the obligatory happily-ever-after.
At the risk of being called sexist, the girls’ high-pitched antics get increasingly wearisome as the night progresses, whereas Peter’s all-night-long drive to Miami to salvage his impending nuptials turns out more interesting – especially an episode at a gas station that sees him exploit his masculinity to procure gas money from two closeted male motorists. That the part of the sweet, romantic lover goes to Peter is no coincidence, but rather an intentional gender reversal which simultaneously allows the girls to get the typically male-driven sexual jokes; and whether deliberate or not, it also means that our sympathies often lie with Peter than with any of the loud, brash and sometimes even plainly dumb girls.
That’s not the fault of any of the actresses though, who do give their thinly written roles their best. Bell and McKinnon are the live-wires here – the former digs deep into her character’s neuroses, and delivers lines like ‘I can’t just go to jail! I couldn’t even make it through the first episode of ‘Orange Is the New Black’ with comic aplomb; and the latter has a blast putting up a fake Aussie accent and rubbing up against Bell’s character’s deeper insecurities. Next to them, Glazer and Kravitz make a cute couple, the one with spunk making occasional but not quite so casual passes at the playfully alluring other. Last but not least, Johannsson makes the best out of an essentially ‘straight-man’ role, but is unfortunately overshadowed by her more unhinged co-stars/ characters; it also doesn’t help that her character Jess often comes across as the one where things happen around her than to her or because of her.
So like we said at the start, it may have seemed like ingenuity to do a ‘Bridesmaids’ rehash ‘Hangover-style’, but the result is a lot less inspired than it may have intended to be. By this point, simply watching girls behaving as badly or as wildly as guys just isn’t as fresh or refreshing as it used to be when ‘Bridesmaids’ first came out, and it shows in the way that Aiello strains to push the laughs in farcical, situational and over-the-top ways. Unlike its inevitable companion comparison ‘Girls Trip’ too, the obligatory conflict between and among the girls isn’t as fleshed out as it needs to be, such that the eventual re-affirmation of their friendship isn’t as sweet or heartwarming too. As a late-summer filler though, there are still some broad laughs to be had, so if you’re willing to go along for a bumpy ride as the title hints, then you might just find yourself enjoying this diverting but ultimately forgettable bachelorette-party-from-hell thriller comedy.
(Not quite as fresh or refreshing as its 'Hangover' done 'Bridesmaids'-style premise may suggest, 'Rough Night' offers some laughs for a late-summer filler but nothing more)
Review by Gabriel Chong