Rough Night: Film Review
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Jillian Bell, Kate McKinnon, Zoe Kravitz, Ilana Grazer, Paul W Downs
Director: Lucia Anello
Owing more than just a spiritual debt to Peter Berg's 1998's Very Bad Things and 2011's Bridesmaids, and coming off the back of the sisters-are-doing-it-for-themselves Wonder Woman the new Scar Jo ensemble comedy Rough Night starts strongly before faltering in the back half.
Scarlett Johansson flexes her comedy chops as Jess, one time party girl and now political hopeful. On the eve of her wedding to Peter (Downs), she's pulled into a bachelorette party organised by college friend Alice (Bell, initially amusing and loud, latterly loud and screeching) in Miami.
Along with former college friends Frankie (Broad City's Ilana Glazer) and Blair (Zoe Kravitz) as well as Jess' new Aussie chum Pippa (McKinnon, the film's MVP) the quintet hit the clubs and party.
But things spiral out of control back at their rented beachside house when a stripper they've booked is accidentally killed...
There are some genuinely funny moments in the front-loaded first half of Rough Night, as director Lucia Anello (also known for Broad City) plies the film with some crafty, yet familiar, nods to female rivalries and friendships, as well as demonstrating that the girls can be just as bad as the boys.
In particular, the pre-credits sequence set in 2006 when the gang was at college, sets Rough Night's stall out in the raunch and rude stakes in a way that will appeal either to the chicks night out at the flicks or to those liquored up and looking for some easy laughs.
A clever off-the-cuff gag involving a champagne bottle and an airport setting elicits a genuine belly laugh, while simultaneously demonstrating how on edge society's become.
However, once Alice's jealousy over Aussie Pippa is explored, and the stripper dispatched, the film settles for borderline average tropes and predictable laughs as it tries to untangle the mess it's created and push the envelope a bit further.
Easily the film's MVP, McKinnon's mix of dodgy Aussie accent along with unexpected one-liners keeps the unpredictability stakes high and provides the lion's share of the film's amusement as the screeching and hysteria sets in from the girls.
Bell's an easy contender for being irritating as the shouting starts, but manages to keep just on the right side of amusing and quirky. Johansson plays it relatively straight, keeping the glue of the group together after some earlier quirks are established and displayed, but she's less the star of the film than you'd expect. Grazer and Kravitz feel a little sidelined as the film goes on, being more interested in exploring the three-way between Jillian Bell, Scarlett Johansson and Kate McKinnon as its main dynamic.
Rough Night is not a savage skewering of stereotypes or a clever flipping of premises (even though the male bachelor party is more set against a backdrop of wine tasting), but it's a solid comedy that starts to run desperately out of steam as the film goes on.
It ends up in the inevitable sap and predictable sentimental gloop that you'd expect and that, to some degree, the target market will possibly want.
It's nowhere near as raunchy as it could get, and perhaps feels watered down as the squabbles come to the fore - it does occasionally work for the absurdism that permeates but disappoints that it doesn't demand more of all of its relatively likeable ensemble.
Less likely to give a cinematic hangover and more likely to struggle to be remembered after the lights go up, Rough Night, amongst its dysfunctional diatribes, makes a case that this kind of comedy film is still in rude health, even if trail-blazing isn't in its ambitions or execution.