The Good: Good initial characterizations, Decent performances
The Bad: Not at all funny, Mediocre direction, No big performance moments, Lousy characters
The Basics: Rough Night very quickly illustrates that women can make a movie as terrible as an comedy focused on idiotic men.
When it comes to summer comedies, it is a rare thing for major studios to bother with chasing the female demographic. Come to think of it, Summer Blockbuster Season seldom bothers with women, so when Rough Night was announced, I was actually intrigued. Scarlett Johansson has a tendency to pick good projects, so despite the initial plot of Rough Night sounding like something I would not be inherently drawn toward, I had some faith in it based upon Johansson participating in it. Sadly, Rough Night is one of Scarlett Johansson's big misses on the big screen and it is such a bad film that it is almost enough to make viewers believe that there is an organized conspiracy in the entertainment industry against women. The business of making movies is a business and if movies focused on women, featuring women fail at the box office, it makes a business argument against making films with women for women. So, if there ever were a conspiracy designed to rig the filmmaking business against women, movies like Rough Night would be at the heart of such a plan.
Rough Night is a d-rate rewrite of The Hangover (reviewed here!) with a predominately female cast. Sadly, Rough Night seems significant mostly for the idea that women can make movies that are just as horrible as anything a man can make. This is, sadly, not a milestone one would suspect women would be striving to achieve, but Rough Night reaches for that brass ring and never lets go of it. Unlike something like The Hangover, that managed to be a surprisingly funny and clever summer comedy, Rough Night burns its funniest moment out in the first five minutes and then falls flat for the remaining hour and thirty-six minutes.
In 2006, Jess, Alice, Blair and Frankie are dormmates, where Alice manages to be the first woman to win beer pong against one of the fraternities. Ten years later, Jess is running for the Senate and is planning to get married. Alice reunites the quartet in Miami for Jess's bachelorette party, which she has planned out as a rowdy weekend. Jess's biggest campaign donor loans her a beach house in Miami, made almost entirely of glass, and Alice is irked when Jess's Australian friend Pippa joins the bachelorette party. When Jess wants to poop out for the night, Frankie supplies the women with cocaine, which they do before going out for the night. Returning to the beach house, the women are thrilled when the stripper Frankie found on Craig's List arrives. Unfortunately, when Alice lustily leaps upon the stripper, she knocks him over, killing him.
Freaked out because they were high at the time and do not believe they can go to the authorities with the dead body in the house or dispose of it well (whatwith anyone being able to see in), the women fight over what to do next. When they decide to dump the body in the ocean, the swinging neighbors become an issue. While Blair takes on the neighbors, the others try to dispose of the corpse. But things get even more complicated when a stripper arrives and the nature of the man who was killed comes into question.
Rough Night is not particularly funny, the funniest joke actually comes up early and is related to Jess's political career, more than any of the issues that follow during the bachelorette weekend. At the core of the problems with Rough Night is that the characters are all monotonal and the plot motivates the decisions made in the film more than the characters. Jess is well-established as an aspiring politician, Frankie is a political activist, and Blair is nearing the end of a rough custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband. But Frankie has a pretty massive supply of cocaine and betrays her NSA-loathing values by owning a cell phone, Jess is incredibly willing to do cocaine and seems to trust that none of the weekend's activities might make it to social media and ruin her campaign, and none of Blair's friends know that she is getting divorced (which is one of only two elements of characterizations he is given). In other words, the characters are established, but then they act entirely against their initial characterization; they are not growing and developing in the course of Rough Night, their characterizations is simply betrayed.
With much of the humor in Rough Night falling flat and the characters not being particularly well-defined, the predictable nature of the plot arc robs the movie of any lingering entertainment value. Rough Night plods to a pretty obvious end with much of what one expects coming to pass, like the loathing Alice has for Pippa getting resolved and the failed relationship between Blair and Frankie getting rekindled. The acting talents of Scarlett Johansson, Jillian Bell and Ty Burrell are completely wasted in Rough Night given that none of the main performers are given anything that truly stretches their range to do.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of Rough Night is that the film degenerates into a familiar level of misogyny and violence against women that is pretty common in films that try to blend comedy and violence. One would think that in a comedy intended for women, with female protagonists, perhaps it would avoid scenes with women getting the crap kicked out of them or taken advantage of sexually, but Rough Night treads into the unfortunately banal, familiar, and stupid range that one expects of Summer Blockbuster Season comedies.
It's unfortunate that co-writer and director Lucia Aniello went for the lowbrow instead of the audacious for her big screen, Summer Blockbuster Season debut.
For other films currently in theaters, please check out my reviews of:
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Guardians Of The Galaxy, Volume 2
For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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