ROUGH NIGHT ½
2017, R, 101 mins.
Scarlett Johansson as Jess / Zoë Kravitz as Blair / Kate McKinnon as Pippa / Ilana Glazer as Frankie / Jillian Bell as Alice / Paul W. Downs as Peter / Demi Moore as Lea / Ty Burrell as Pietro / Dean Winters as Detective Frazier / Enrique Murciano as Detective Ruiz / Colton Haynes as Officer Scotty / Ryan Cooper as Jay / Karan Soni as Raviv / Bo Burnham as Tobey / Eric André as Jake / Madison Arnold as Morty
Directed by Lucia Aniello / Written by Aniello and Paul W. Downs
ROUGH NIGHT is yet another hard R-rated party comedy in an awfully long and incredibly disposable line of them that thinks it's a hell of a lot more hilarious and novel than it actually is.
Outside of this
film featuring an all female lead cast and being directed by a woman
(Lucia Aniello, making her feature film debut), there's very little if any
creative ambition on display here, which is abundantly evident within its
first 30 minutes. Cherry
picking elements from other foul mouthed and raunchy films like VERY BAD
THINGS, WEEKEND AT BERNIES, and THE HANGOVER
series, Aniello squanders the relative good will of her talented cast on
stale and left over material that rarely generates serious momentum and,
most damningly, very little if any sustainable laughs.
paint-by-numbers script concerns Jess (an awkwardly out of her element
Scarlett Johansson), a thirtysomething Senate candidate that's so busy
trying to secure and win vital votes that she barely has time to spend
with her fiancé (Paul W. Down, also co-writer here).
With her nuptials just on the horizon, Jess is looking to engage in
one last night of fun as a single lady, which leads to her old college
roommate and friend Alice (Jillian Bell) insisting that she throw her BFF
a bachelorette party to end all bachelorette parties.
Cruising down to Miami with her entourage of besties - including
Alice, Frankie (Ilana Glazer), and Blair (Zoe Kravitz) - Jess' mission is
to engage in a
night of all out debauchery that she hasn't had since her dorm room days.
Now, why a career minded woman like her would want to risk her
Senate race by appearing like a wild and free spirited party animal in
public is just one of many odd oversights that ROUGH NIGHT makes in the
scripting and logic department.
As Jess and the
gang make it to Miami she's reunited with her Australian pal Pippa (Kate
McKinnon), after which time they all partake in an exceedingly wild night of
drinking, dancing, and impromptu cocaine snorting.
When they all arrive back and their ultra posh beachside condo rental a
male stripper appears at their door step to provide some entertainment, but
out of control when one of the women accidentally kills him by jumping into his
lap and causing him fall backwards and split his cranium open.
Emotionally distraught, the ladies pathetically try to take stock
of their situation to ensure that the dead body
doesn't make it on the eleven o'clock news.
Fate steps in rather horribly when they all discover that the man
they accidentally murdered might not actually be the real hired stripper.
Complicating things is Jess' inordinately clingy fiancé, who
starts fearing the worst with her erratic behavior on the phone.
ROUGH NIGHT never
seems to get much innovative mileage out of its macabre premise, mostly
because, as already mentioned, it has a decidedly been there, done that
flavor (Peter Berg's VERY BAD THINGS ostensibly had the very same premise
of a bunch of hedonistic partiers that accidentally kill a paid
prostitute). The main problem
with ROUGH NIGHT is that it's far too reticent minded to really explore
the darker aspects of the women's fate and instead offers up ample amounts
of would-be uproarious slapstick comedy with the corpse in question.
This also leads to the film's extremely odd tonal shifts, with
Aniello segueing between low brow bodily fluid pratfalls and farcical gags
and then to serious character drama...and then this perplexing cycle
repeats itself. ROUGH NIGHT makes for
a frankly bizarre viewing experience because it seems to have a real
And it's not that
this cast isn't winning and/or capable enough of bringing the funny here,
but they're mournfully saddled with stock character types instead of fully
fleshed out and authentically rendered human beings.
Jess is the pragmatic and responsible leader of the group; Alice is
the emotionally unstable attention seeking hound; Pippa is the eccentric
and bumbling Aussie; Frankie is the uncompromising social activist; and
Blair is the headstrong businesswoman that once had a romantic fling with
Frankie. Because a majority
of ROUGH NIGHT is played as a broad and off the rails farce, none of these
women become compelling or relatable entities in this story that's
worthy of our understanding and empathy.
Aniello wants her film to be unrelentingly filthy minded and a
sobering character study as well, and it fumbles the ball in both
Since the writing
is on woeful autopilot and nearly every single comedy cliché is
utilized here to frustrating effect, the actors are left to desperately
try as they may to make the material work, with intermittent levels of
success. Scarlett Johansson
has proven in the past that she can play comedy rather well (look at last year's HAIL
CAESAR!), but here her timing and performance discipline seems
off. Jillian Bell facilitates
the obligatory need for her character to be belligerently coarse while
throwing common sense and discretion away, but she's become so bloody
typecast in playing these same type of characters over and over again that
they're becoming hopelessly interchangeable with every new film she
appears in. And Kate McKinnon
takes her camera mugging shtick to whole new distracting levels by
employing a thick Aussie accent. Now, accents aren't inherently funny and only serve to
show the comedic desperation that pollutes this film.
There are a few
good laughs sprinkled throughout ROUGH NIGHT, some involving a neighborhood
pair (Demi Moore and Ty Burrell) that are a couple of sex starved
swingers that display an unhealthy predilection towards getting one of
friends in the sack for a three way.
One of the central ironies of ROUGH NIGHT is that it's a comedy
directed by a woman and featuring a female cast that delegates the best
laughs for its male supporting stars. The
most clever moments on display here involves Aniello cross cutting between
Jess and her friends burning the midnight oil at Miami nightclubs getting
progressively more high and intoxicated by the minute with moments
featuring her fiancé having a hilariously mellow and calm night at home
testing wine with his sensitive and emasculated pals.
The fiancé then commits himself to a remarkably bizarre all nighter car
trip to meet back up with Jess - after he believes that she's broken up with
him on the phone - that involves a lot of Red Bull drinking and shopping
for adult diapers (infer what you will with the latter).
Perhaps the most
revealing aspect about ROUGH NIGHT is that it's proof positive that a
female driven comedy can be just as unoriginal and lacking in genuine
inspiration as any similar male driven one.
Gender swapping these types of comedies isn't particularly
liberating for the genre, especially when the laughs are scattershot and
the character dynamics are paper thin.
Too much of ROUGH NIGHT feels like a lazy assembly line studio
project that fails to segregate itself from an overly crowded pack.
Yes, women can play things as disgustingly puerile in these types
of party comedies as their male counterparts, but that
doesn't mean that they should stick to lame and hackneyed status quo
formulas to appease a broad comedy base.
ROUGH NIGHT is pretty creatively bankrupt regardless of cast and
crew makeup and, most contemptuously, it simply didn't make me laugh.
This female cast deserves better and audiences members - both of
the male and female variety - also deserve to not have their money wasted
by seeing this.