6/15/2017

Review: 'Rough Night' Does Some Very Bad Things For Good Laughs


This is what gender equality looks like, folks. We have Wonder Woman, proving that a female superhero movie with a female director can be just as good, if not better, than any other from the male-dominated comic book movie genre. And we also have a film like Rough Night, which is the first R-rated comedy in ages that's from a woman, Broad City's Lucia Aniello, starring all women. And to put it bluntly, it's as dumb and raunchy as anything you will have seen in The Hangover. This is what equality looks like, and Rough Night is funny as Hell.


What works about it is the strange concoction of stars that don't seem like they should go together at all. Scarlett Johansson, looking like she just graduated from the Hillary Clinton School for Hair, plays Jess, a candidate running for local office while also trying to plan her wedding. For better, but mostly for worse, those plans have been overtaken by her longtime best friend and college roommate, Alice (Jillian Bell), who hopes to escape her boring schoolteacher life with an unhinged all-girls' weekend. They're reunited with fellow college buds Frankie (Broad City's Ilana Glazer), an activist, and Blair (Zoe Kravitz), whose posh lifestyle hides some real family problems. Also along for the ride is Pippa (Kate McKinnon), Jess's Australian friend from her summer abroad.


If you've ever seen the 1998 film Very Bad Things, then you know what happens next. Basically, a night of wild partying, with drinks and drugs galore, totally unbecoming of a political candidate by the way, turns super dark real fast. A sexy male stripper is accidentally squashed by Alice, cracking his head and killing him instantly. After time spent freaking out, eating pizza, and freaking out some more, the ladies realize it's probably just a good idea to hide the body. At least it doesn't turn into Weekend at Bernie's where they drag the dead guy around all night. Instead they just cover his face with a pair of dildo glasses, which might be a million times worse, actually.


The boundaries of decency are frequently pushed to the limit and the script by Aniello and co-star Paul W. Downs doesn't pull back...well, until the end which wraps up too neatly. There are penis jokes everywhere, but to be fair male comedies have those too...sometimes more, actually, and plenty of frank gags about sex that are good for a laugh even when they're uncomfortable. Like, for instance, when Blair, totally against her wishes, engages in a menage a trois with a randy couple (Demi Moore and Ty Burrell) just so she can steal their security cam footage. She's disgusted afterwards, but her pals just move right along to the next thing. And that's pretty much how Rough Night goes, throwing one insane situation after the other, each increasingly more outrageous.


But what works about it is the humor is found in the quirks of each character, who have all been perfectly cast. Most of the biggest screw-ups are caused by the perpetually horny and insecure Alice, with Bell fitting nicely into the role that seems designed for her. McKinnon could make an entire, amazing movie out of her wacky facial expressions alone, but her gift for physical comedy is peerless right now. Glazer is at her best the further over the edge she goes, while Kravitz quietly has some of the most pointed, purely feminist lines of them all, that happen to still be pretty funny. Johansson, as the most straight-laced of the bunch, gets lost in the mix with such a rowdy group, but she's also the only one who gets to kick a little ass, Black Widow-style.


There aren't many instances where the film goes south, but they mostly involve the misadventures of Jess's fiancĂ© (played by Downs), who leaves his super boring bachelor party (complete with wine tastings) to rush down to Miami in a diaper, Lisa Nowak-style, when he thinks something's wrong. The whole movie is pretty absurdist but his little side story, which involves mountains of Red Bull, and run-ins with orally-fixated gas station attendants, take us away from the characters and relationships we really want to see.  Every time the movie switches to him we immediately wish it would just go back to the ladies and their friendship, which feels real and honest no matter how crazy things get. And that is part of the reason why Rough Night works. I said before that the cast was a strange concoction that doesn't seem like it should make sense, but isn't that how all of the best friendships are? They're unpredictable, sometimes volatile, but always fruitful. How soon until we can get a reunion?

Rating: 3.5 out of 5