Is it really a big deal that there’s a new silly, mildly raunchy, super profane comedy about a bunch of women screwing up, written by and directed by a woman? Yeah, sure. That doesn’t mean it’s good or bad. It may be as mediocre as Ghostbusters or as great as Wonder Woman. Although only one of those was directed by a woman, so perhaps that should tell you something.
Rough Night comes from director Lucia Aniello (her debut) co-written with Paul W. Downs, who is also in the movie. And you’ll never guess as whom! He plays Peter, the fiancé of Jess (Scarlett Johansson), the primary protagonist. This may seem to be a large disparity in terms of attractiveness, but the movie actually has some good jokes about it.
The story is simple enough: Jess was roommates with Alice (Jillian Bell) back at college, where they partied with couple Frankie (Ilana Glazer) and Blair (Zoë Kravitz). Now ten years later, Jess is running for state senate and is about to head off on her bachelorette weekend, with planning to the minute by Alice. Sounds like shenanigans are in order!
The dynamics are quickly setup: Jess is a bit worried about her image, April is overly close to Jess, Frankie is a hippie activist, and Blair is very well put together and high class. They all meet up in Miami with Jess’ old Australian friend from her year abroad, Pippa (Kate McKinnon, milking that Aussie accent). They all start partying extremely hard, and things are going alright until they hire a stripper.
A man shows up and then accidentally gets killed … what fun! It’s sort of like The Hangover except instead of looking for someone, they have to get rid of a dead body. This is where the movie actually becomes pretty funny, and there’s a funny parallel plot with Peter, who thinks Jess doesn’t want to get married after all, so he grabs a car and plans to drive all night.
Most of the characters aren’t exactly well drawn, but there are a lot of funny lines, and some decent physical comedy. Much of the plot moving forward comes from increasingly stupid decisions made while under the influence of drugs and alcohol, but although there’s a dead body all the time, it’s a lot more like Weekend at Bernie’s than Game of Thrones when it comes to accurate portrayal of a dead body.
There are some well-acted emotional scenes eventually, although the characters are again, so thinly written that it’s purely due to the acting chops that the scene doesn’t elicit eye rolls. Scarlett is great here, doing comedic work she rarely gets to do outside of hosting SNL (I loved that recent episode she hosted with the Olive Garden sketch that I watch on endless replay). Ilana Glazer doesn’t really get to cut loose like she’s capable of, and Jillian Bell does well with her barbed insults.
Kate McKinnon’s lines aren’t great, but she’s so good at physical comedy and facial contortions, it doesn’t really matter. Zoë Kravitz is pretty alright, although she’s rarely given much to do, and oddly, Paul W. Downs was very funny.
It’s a decidedly average sort of comedy, one with more laughs than eye rolls, and rarely dull. Some pieces certainly don’t work, the overall story is absurd, and most of the characters are just vehicles for insult comedy. But I kinda liked it.
Rough Night has a running time of 1 hour 41 minutes, and is rated R for crude sexual content, language throughout, drug use and brief bloody images.