Rough Night is, at long last, a full-blown, all-women rendition of The Hangover, one of the best comedies of the last decade. It's an intriguing specimen that you swear you've seen before; a film, yet again, proving that women can be just as crass, filthy, and belligerent as men. Although you might be quick to claim that Bridesmaids or maybe Sisters served as The Hangover with women, both films, I'd argue, were too plot-heavy. They were too preoccupied with a story, which is less a criticism and more of a statement regarding their ambitions.
Rough Night, on the contrary, has the same kind of manic, hazy detective-story-like quality to its premise that The Hangover did, complete with a cast of characters who are nimble and fluid in their roles in order to maximize comic potential. As naughty as those previously mentioned films were, I'd have a hard time seeing them sidetrack their own premise with a dance-number to a song that's primary lyric is "lick my pussy and my crack."
The film revolves around five college friends getting together for a bachelorette party that turns deadly when one of them accidentally causes their Craigslist male stripper to bludgeon his head on the base of a fireplace. The women are bride-to-be, political-hopeful Jess (Scarlett Johansson), her rowdy best-friend Alice (Jillian Bell), her Australian college roommate Pippa (Kate McKinnon), her feminist/activist confidant Frankie (Ilana Glazer), and her mostly confident, level-headed friend Blair (Zoë Kravitz), all of whom embark on this one-night adventure in a lavish vacation home off the coast of Miami. Meanwhile, Jess' husband Peter (Paul W. Downs) stays at home for a soothing evening with the guys.
Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Zoë Kravitz
16 June 2017
Steve's Grade: B
Once the stripper is confirmed dead, the girls exhaustively plot to first report the accidental death, but their reactionary impulses tell them to move the body and set themselves up for a lot more trouble. It comes to the point where both Jess and Alice come to realize the best option at the moment is to dispose of the corpse in some effective manner, which somehow results in Pippa riding a jet-ski into the middle of the ocean and nearly paralyzing herself upon returning to shore.
Rough Night is manic to the point of being intensely difficult to cogently summarize and that's part of its charm. Like the brains of the ladies that are wrapped up in the rapidly unfolding madness, thoughts and statements by the women are interrupted with semi-related quips and propositions by other characters like a Twitter feed of unrelated tweets strung together. It's a flurry of madness that ends up being a frantic comic exercise by co-writer/director Lucia Aniello and Downs (who both, in addition to Glazer, worked on the Comedy Central show Broad City).
The film largely succeeds on the proven talents of the primary cast. For one, Scarlett Johansson has time and time again shown that she can be successful in the least likely roles and the quirkiest comedies, and when she pulls off a comic performance that tries so hard to be serious in a film that's so loony, it only prompts one to smile. Jillian Bell, on the other hand, has so far made something of a name for herself thanks to medium-sized roles in 22 Jump Street and Fist Fight, and finally shows that she has the rowdiness buoyed by a tender edge that is necessary for her roles.
Finally, there's Kate McKinnon. Other than Michael Shannon, I cannot think of another actor have I gushed about so flamboyantly. With her unbelievable talents and charisma on-screen, McKinnon blew me away, once again, like a college scout who has just witnessed their farm system's franchise player perform and perform well beyond expectations. In Rough Night, McKinnon has a delightful balance of exaggerated comedy and understated, physically expressive features, such as wide-eyes, a twisted smile, and a look of devious intent. Blend that with her indescribable Australian accent, which sounds exactly like an Aussie native with a McKinnon-spin, and you have another performance by the wonderful actress who will hopefully, like Bell, make an upgrade to taking centerstage in her own comedy very shortly.
Rough Night is patchy like many comedies of its breed, meaning there are certain spots where it sags and certain parts where it simply overdoes whatever it's doing. There's one part where Alice gives Jess a gift-basket of penis-related goodies that feels like a joke that's overstayed its welcome, and there gets to be a point in time where the belated climax feels like it's late to its own party. Rough Night, however, crafts a film that's largely kept afloat by the trifecta of talent at its core, while simply being entertaining and pleasant enough when it needs to be. In addition, give credit where credit is due to a film that essentially recreated the premise of The Hangover but did so in a not-so-obvious way where we cannot watch the trailers nor the film without thinking of that particular film, further proving that such a thing as subtlety does still exist in Hollywood.