Throughout its marketing run, ‘Rough Night’ was compared to the late 90’s dark comedy ‘Very Bad Things’, which had the same concept about a bachelor (or in this case, bachelorette) party gone wrong. I have never watched the Peter Berg film, but know and understand why so many people are making comparisons. It even had elements of ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’ (a comedy about pretending a dead guy was still alive) for good measure. With its marketing, ‘Rough Night’ has also been compared to raunchy comedies, such as, ‘The Hangover’ and ‘Bridesmaids’. (Which, if you do the math, you get an unrelated trilogy of booze and semi gross-out humor.) However, the reception upon ‘Rough Night’s release has been mixed; add to the disappointing box-office returns over the weekend, and you are none the wiser. From day one, it seemed that this female-led comedy was doomed to fail. Surprisingly, it’s not as terrible as most would think.
‘Rough Night’ – written by Paul W. Downs (who plays in this movie as Scarlett Johansson’s character’s fiance) and Lucia Aniello (who also directs this R-rated comedy) of ‘Broad City’ – is a comedy that plays as either hit or miss, proving the argument that this particular genre is “subjective”, as many would say about film in general. You’re either going to laugh your ass off at each and every penis joke that gets uttered by these ladies, or you will cringe over the sight of Johansson and friends attempting to get rid of a male stripper’s recently deceased body, with images of a bloody mess to add injury to insult. (Don’t worry, this is not a spoiler! It is part of ‘Rough Night’s concept.) I honestly found ‘Rough Night’ to be fun when it needed to be, despite not being what is expected.
At its heart lies a women’s buddy film about a bond so strong that not even an accidental murder could tear apart. (Sounds deep, but I believe that is the theme that Downs and Aniello carefully ripped off from other buddy films of the past) Jess, (Johansson) Alice (Jillian Bell), Frankie (Ilana Glazer, who starred in ‘Broad City’), and Blair (Zoe Kravitz) have been friends since their college years, but have led separate lives over the years. Not only is Jess about to get married to her fiance Peter (Downs), she is also running as Senator of State; Alice is a schoolteacher, Frankie is a civil rights activist, and Blair is going through a custody battle with her ex-husband. Alice decides to plan the party for Jess with a night of booze, cocaine, and even said male stripper. (Ryan Cooper)
The addition of Pippa (Kate McKinnon) – Jess’ friend from Australia – serves as a way of bringing tension in the friendship, despite feeling welcome to the group of friends. It added a bit of emotional drama to the situation. The feeling of being replaced by a new friend is a theme that is shown in this film.
All comedies like this rely on the chemistry of their leads to keep their ships from sinking, and Johansson, McKinnon, Bell, Glazer, and Kravitz steer clear of a dull iceberg of bad chemistry in order to keep this night from becoming as rough as its title suggests. Ty Burrell and Demi Moore also appear as a couple who have a sexual interest in Blair.