UK Release Date: 25th August 2017
Runtime: 101 minutes
Director: Lucia Aniello
Writer: Lucia Aniello, Paul W Downs
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Jillian Bell, Kate McKinnon, Zoë Kravitz, Ilana Glazer, Paul W Downs, Demi Moore, Ty Burrell
Synopsis: A raucous hen do turns into a nightmare for a group of college buddies when they inadvertently kill a stripper and have to find a way to get rid of his body.
The search for a female take on The Hangover ended a month or so ago with the utterly charming and equally filthy comedy Girls Trip. Arriving tardy and looking rather disheveled a little later is Rough Night, in which Scarlett Johansson leads an ensemble of American comedy regulars in a story that might be one of the most distasteful comedic premises of the year so far. It’s a dead stripper movie with a larky, hen do twist that comes across like Weekend at Bernie’s with colourful cocktails and Instagram filters.
Jess Thayer (Johansson) is a political hopeful attempting to win office while preparing for her wedding to fiancé Peter (Paul W Downs). Her best friend from college Alice (Jillian Bell) organises a raucous bachelorette party at a villa in Miami, owned by one of Jess’s campaign donors. Alice invites along college friends and former lovers Blair (Zoë Kravitz) and Frankie (Ilana Glazer) to join them, while Jess insists she invite Pippa (Kate McKinnon) – an oddball Aussie who Jess met while studying abroad. After a night of drinking, the group hires a stripper, only for him to end up dead after he accidentally hits his head.
When trailers for Rough Night first began to arrive, alarm bells began to ring for the film. If the trailer for the movie contained an alarming and clunky tonal shift, then that didn’t suggest great things ahead. It transpires that the omens were absolutely true because Rough Night is an utterly lousy movie. It has a clear dividing line between its larky ladette comedy material and its awkward gallows humour for the most part, but completely crumbles when that barrier is breached. There’s comedic potential in the presence of a corpse, but Rough Night has no idea how to handle it while also making jokes about dicks and the swingers living next door.
Many of the cast involved in Rough Night are no strangers to dodgy comedy and have appeared in as many stinkers as they have successes. Scarlett Johansson, though, is clearly struggling to lift this material to a higher level. Needless to say, she fails, and her hyper-successful Hillary Clinton-alike politician would almost certainly have been more believable if its real world analogue hadn’t been beaten in the election. Kate McKinnon, in particular, is left rudderless and all at sea by the film, which requires she perform a bizarre approximation of an Antipodean accent while only occasionally allowing her madcap charms to run amok.
Even leaving to one side its bizarre central premise, Rough Night really suffers from an alarming surplus of plot. There are needless twists and turns throughout and, when the final third tosses in a diamond heist sub-plot, it’s genuinely difficult to maintain an idea of what is happening. There’s a clear sense throughout that the script is simply assembling disparate pieces so it can click them all together when the film ends and the final 10 minutes are a bizarre exercise in contrived developments that induce more eye rolls than dramatic gasps.
This is yet another example of the kind of ramshackle improvisation that has plagued many recent Hollywood comedies. Not that the firm script fares much better, given that it spends an entire scene contriving an excuse to put a central male character in an adult nappy, landing on an excuse that holds considerably less water than the nappy itself. There’s just no innovation on show and not even enough laughter for the film to sail by on convention alone. Rough Night seems to be a prime example of nominative determinism at the multiplex, because you certainly won’t find a night at the movies that’s any rougher than this.
Pop or Poop?
A roster of fun comedic talent is not enough to save Rough Night from its distasteful, half-baked premise and pitiful script. By the time it piles on the plot and brings in contrivance after contrivance, it has been almost an hour since you last cracked a smile. Given the movie’s use of a cadaver as a comedy prop, it’s perhaps fitting that it leaves you feeling as cold as the grave.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.