I saw the trailer for this film and thought it looked like a female version of ‘The Hangover’, which is pretty much exactly what it is. Although the trailer did not appeal to my sense of humour, it had a strong cast (including Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon and Zoë Kravitz) and I wanted to support the film because it’s a female-directed, female-driven R-rated comedy and I believe there should be more of all those things. Interestingly enough, like buses, two have come along at once – the similarly-plotted ‘Girls Trip’ (starring Jada Pinkett Smith and Queen Latifah) is also coming out this Summer, showing there is room for more than one studio comedy from the female perspective. I am pleased to say I was pleasantly surprised by ‘Rough Night’ and I ended up laughing a lot more than I thought I would.
Jess (Johansson) is a goody-goody, trying to carve a noble political career and engaged to a boring and sensible man. Her former college roommate, Alice (Jillian Bell) has planned a wild weekend in Miami for Jess’ bachelorette party. Along for the ride are uptight and wealthy Blair (Kravitz) and free-spirited hippy Frankie (Ilana Glazer) – who have a romantic history from college. The fifth ingredient is Pippa (McKinnon) – Jess’ friend from a year out in Australia. Pippa immediately gets Alice’s back up, as she feels jealous and threatened in her best friend status with Jess. The weekend starts off predictably wild – with drink, dancing and drugs and a stripper is ordered once the girls are back at their luxury Miami pad. In the fine tradition of a Joe Orton farce – an accident occurs, the stripper ends up dead and the rest of the film covers the panic of what to do with the body.
It’s interesting that because it is women reacting to the death of someone in their midst, the tone did become more serious and emotional – at least for a while. I was in a packed cinema, with a mostly female audience and the atmosphere did become a little awkward and uncomfortable when the stripper was killed. It’s hard not to empathise when you see yourself represented on screen and initially the group of women are quite shattered by what has occurred. The writers – Lucia Aniello (who also directed) and Paul Downs (who plays Jess’ fiancee Peter) quite deftly handle this tonal shift and fairly subtly but quickly build the moment back up to comedy. Bell and McKinnon, who play the more outlandish comic figures also greatly help with returning the mirth. I did find myself swept along and almost despite myself, laughing at crude and broadly comedic moments – which usually isn’t really my thing.
The film alternates between the raucous bachelorette weekend in Miami and Peter’s bachelor party. In a slightly tiresome role reversal, his is a much more sedate wine tasting affair. However, after a panicked phone call from Jess, Peter believes she has cheated on him with the stripper/prostitute and his friends persuade him to pull an insane all-nighter – fuelled by Adderall, Red Bull and adult nappies – and drive to Miami to confront her. This was a pleasantly unhinged performance from Downs (who I’ve not seen before) and did provide some welcome relief from the body-hiding shenanigans.
Add in great cameos from Ty Burrell and Demi Moore – as the randy neighbours to the party pad – and all in all, this was an enjoyable night at the cinema. I can definitely see this proving popular with groups of girls, who want to go out and have a few drinks and have a fun night at the movies. Films like that don’t come along all that often (‘Magic Mike’ and yes, ‘Fifty Shades’ are probably the most recent examples), so we have to take what we can get. I think ‘Rough Night’ is going to do well financially and I’m happy about that. Of course, many films have tried to replicate the success of ‘Bridesmaids’ and not many have managed to pull it off. Hopefully female-driven comedies will not be so few-and-far-between in future and we don’t have to put so much emphasis on female directors, writers and stars when reviewing them. It should be standard, run-of-the-mill, not worth noting. But we’re not there yet.
Director: Lucia Aniello
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Zoe Kravitz, Ilana Glazer, Jillian Bell