Rough Night. Directed by Lucia Aniello. Starring Scarlett Johannson. Rating: 4 (out of 10)
Building on the adage that what’s good for the goose is also good for the gander, Rough Night borrows from a slew of lowbrow bachelor movies and aims for girl-power gold, but instead lays the proverbial egg.
Women can, and should, be equally represented in all genres onscreen, on that we can all agree. But an all-female cast in raunch-coms is no longer a hook in of itself and by no means a novelty: we’ve seen grown women behaving badly in Bad Moms, Trainwreck, Sisters, How To Be Single and Bridesmaids (which arguably started it all) to name a few.
But if the premise of Rough Night really seems familiar, that’s because you may have seen Very Bad Things, starring Christian Slater and Cameron Diaz, in which a group of guys on a stag weekend find themselves with a dead stripper on their hands and decide to bury her out in the desert. That film was a flop, so there was nowhere to go but up.
And so, 10 years after college Jess (Scarlett Johansson) is a buttoned-up political hopeful about to get married. College friend Alice (Jillian Bell from Workaholics) organizes a Miami bachelorette weekend reuniting old friends Frankie (Ilana Glazer, Broad City) and Blair (Zoe Kravitz) and relative newcomer Pippa (Kate McKinnon), Jess’ friend from a semester in Australia.
At dinner Jess demurely requests an early night but the women end up doing cocaine in the bathroom. Cue the requisite slo-mo shot of the girls strutting through town: it’s on.
After the usual bumping and grinding and too-many-shots, the women find themselves back at a chic mansion with a surprise stripper (Ryan Cooper) for Jess. The surprise, instead, is that he winds up dead after a horny Alice pounces, causing the poor hottie to split his head open all over that nice Carrera marble.
Instead of phoning the authorities (where’s the fun in that?) silly solutions are bandied about by the women, including the most tasteless: “There was this guy in Australia who cooked his girlfriend and ate her.” (They might’ve deleted that line everywhere it appeared, since it actually happened in May.)
Our quintet turns to the wealthy swinger neighbours next door (Demi Moore and Ty Burrell as you’ve never seen them before) who may or may not have footage of the crime on their security camera, and offering up poor Blair as bait. HPV jokes and a dash of Weekend At Bernie’s, follow.
Staring with the “human friendipede” the hilarity seems choreographed and forced, right down to the girls’ dance routine. Johansson, long trapped in spandex suits, has room to move in this broad comedy, but seems uncomfortable with the free rein she’s given. Why is Kate McKinnon Australian? Why is it always the fat girl’s fault? From the sexual tension between Blair and Frankie to the poncy bachelor wine-tasting attended by Jess’ fiancé Peter (co-writer Paul W. Downs), more gags miss than hit their mark amid a lot of bad taste being sold as black comedy
What is relatable, and most interesting about the film, are the too-brief but true-to-life depictions of female friendship, complete with the jealousy, competitiveness and intense emotion that it entails. More female bonding and less trying too hard to compete with their male counterparts would’ve led to a much more satisfying Night.