Rough Night offers an entertaining genderswap on the bromantic comedy, which especially works thanks to its Broad City brand of humor.
Rough Night starts off in 2006, when Jess (Scarlett Johansson), Alice (Jillian Bell), Blair (Zoë Kravitz), and Frankie (Ilana Glazer) were best friends in college, attending fraternity parties together and winning beer pong championships. And, with their lives poised to change with Jess soon heading out on a study abroad program, the four promised to be best friends forever. Ten years later, Jess is running for office – and losing to a male candidate who regularly posts photos of his penis to social media – Alice is an elementary school teacher who cares for her mother with Alzheimer’s, Blair is going through a divorce and fighting her ex for custody of their son, and Frankie is a professional activist.
The four friends meet in Miami, Florida for Jess’s bachelorette weekend, which Alice has scheduled to the half hour. While at dinner on the first night, Jess’s Australian friend Pippa (Kate McKinnon) arrives and the party really gets started when Frankie scores some cocaine off a busboy in the bathroom. However, as their night of revelry winds down, the male stripper Frankie ordered for Jess arrives and everything goes wrong when Alice accidentally kills the man. The five friends attempt to figure out what to do in order to keep their lives on track. Meanwhile, after a distressing call from a panicking Jess, her fiance Peter (Paul W. Downs) begins the trek to meet up with her in Miami to figure out if they’re still going to get married. The titular rough night for Jess and her friends will prove to either destroy or strengthen their relationships as they try to hide the crime they’ve committed.
Rough Night is the feature-length directorial debut of Lucia Aniello, who along with her partner Downs, has written, produced, and directed a number of episodes on Comedy Central’s Broad City – which originally began as a webseries created by co-star Glazer and her comedy partner Abbi Jacobson. Aniello, Downs, and Glazer also recently worked together on the Comedy Central miniseries, Time Traveling Bong. The script to Rough Night was penned by Aniello with Downs, so it features much the same offbeat and raunchy humor employed on their Comedy Central series. Further, they put their own spin on the genre of wedding-focused buddy comedies that have arisen in recent years. Rough Night offers an entertaining genderswap on the bromantic comedy, which especially works thanks to its Broad City brand of humor.
Much like comedies such as The Hangover and Bridesmaids, Rough Night takes the subject matter of an out-of-control lead up to a wedding to the extreme in order to mine humor from a friendship-focused rite of passage. However, Rough Night puts an arguably much darker spin on the comedy genre by basing its premise around the accidental murder of a male stripper. The shift in tone from the ladies’ night of hard partying – which holds a note of nostalgia to their college days – to the group panicking in the wake of the man’s death is a bit clunky. The movie largely nails the transition from relatively light-hearted fun to dark comedy, since all the events leading up to that turning point are heightened for the sake of humor, but the specific sequence is incredibly dark and incongruous, running the risk of taking viewers entirely out of the film.
For the most part though, the humor of Rough Night is fresh and offbeat in much the same way as Broad City, with the film mining comedy from all aspects of women’s experiences – the more taboo the better, be they masturbation or menstruation. And, with many of the leads in Rough Night having strong comedy backgrounds – particularly Bell, Glazer, and McKinnon – they’re able to carry off every joke to maximum effect. It no doubt helps that Bell and Glazer’s parts seem to have been written to the strengths of their respective comedic skills, while McKinnon proves again that she can excel in any type of offbeat character. For their part, Kravitz and Johansson work as the straight man types to their more wacky counterparts. Though both actresses are given a great deal of comedy material to work with, they’re often portraying the more grounded characters in a scene who elevate the humor of the others.
Additionally helping Rough Night to work is the film’s strong supporting cast, which is comprised of a mixture of up and coming comedians and established stars. Ty Burrell and Demi Moore appear as the adventurous and oversexed neighbors to the person whose house Jess and her friends are staying in. Meanwhile, Peter’s group of friends at his bachelor party includes Hasan Minhaj, Bo Burnham, and Eric Andre. All the supporting players help to add unexpected elements to fill out Rough Night’s runtime beyond the lead characters panicking over their crime – though Burrell and Moore’s characters don’t feel that fresh considering the sexually adventurous older couple isn’t necessarily a new concept in comedy. Still, Peter’s bachelor party – a much more subdued wine tasting – gets the same heightened treatment as the main storyline, with his arc taking a sudden turn when he decides to drive through the night to meet up with Jess, and his methods of doing so are outrageous, to say the least.
In terms of the film’s ending though, Rough Night’s biggest weakness arrives in how the major plot thread is wrapped up quickly and tossed aside with a few lines of dialogue – albeit dialogue that proves to be one of the movie’s better jokes. Of course, in a comedy about friends reuniting and having their relationships tested, the conflict secondary to their friendships isn’t necessarily as important as where the characters stand by the end of the film. Rough Night may flounder a bit in the execution of its murdered stripper storyline, but effectively and compellingly resolves the conflicts among Jess, Alice, Blair, Frankie, and Pippa. And, since Rough Night is meant to be a woman-centric bromantic comedy, it’s forgivable the film skips over certain important details in order to focus on its lead characters.
All in all, Rough Night is an entertaining take on the wedding-focused niche of comedy films that offers enough freshness to stand out among the pack that includes a handful of beloved movies. While it may not be an instant classic for fans of raunch comedy across the board, the Broad City-brand humor brought by Aniello and Downs, as well as the inclusion of Glazer, effectively differentiates Rough Night from other similar films. All told, Rough Night is a fun and fresh summer comedy perfect for fans of Broad City as well as those looking for an entertaining romp in the vein of The Hangover and Bridesmaids.
Rough Night is now playing in U.S. theaters. It is 101 minutes long and rated R for crude sexual content, language throughout, drug use and brief bloody images.
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