For decades, raunchy comedies have been dominated by men, whether it is National Lampoon’s Animal House, The Hangover or Caddyshack. These movies have shown men at their worst, but have done so in a hilarious way. The genre, however, has long been missing a bit of estrogen, which is what is presented in Rough Night, although to some less-than-stellar results.
Scarlett Johansson stars in this story of a bachelorette party gone wrong for a woman running for state senator as Johansson and the rest of the cast have to figure out what to do when their male stripper is accidentally killed.
At its root, this is a dark story, but the films pushes through with several laugh out loud moment that include some recycled elements of films past. Johansson plays Jess, the hopeful senator, whose hairstyle resembles something Hillary Clinton would wear. Life on the campaign trail has kicked her ass as she and her fiance, Peter (Paul W. Downs), have already assumed the mantle of the “old couple” evidenced by the fact that they two are too distracted and tired for sex early in the film.
Jess’ entourage includes her college buddies, Alice (Jillian Bell), Jess’ overly attached friend and former college roommate, Frankie (Ilana Glazer), a political activist and former lover of Blair (Zoe Kravitz), who since college has gotten married and had a kid, but is in the middle of an ugly divorce and custody battle.
Rounding out the group is Pippa (Kate McKinnon), Jess’ friend from Australia who is meeting the group for the first time. While McKinnon has generated fame from her Saturday Night Live skits, here role for the most part in this film is flat as the comedy of her character is relied almost solely on her Australian accent and inability to comprehend American customs.
While the group is supposed to be four best friends from college (and the newly added Pippa), the chemistry of the group is fractured into Alice pining over Jess (and her jealousy of Pippa), and the awkward rekindling of Blair and Frankie, who have not seen each other since their breakup. There is a sense of feminine bonding, but with such a crystal clear divide, the film at times gets into its own way.
The film is a step in a different direction for Johansson, who has worked almost exclusively in action films lately, whether it be the Marvel Cinematic Universe or Ghost in the Shell, which was released last March. Even the comedies she has worked in have been more of the high-brow variety. The role as an aspiring politician allows her to resort to the more conservative personality she is used to while at the same time affording her the ability to take a risk in a movie that is unlike anything she has done before.
Bell, on the other hand, is given a bigger platform as the film’s biggest comic relief. We have seen her in smaller roles such as Office Christmas Party and The Night Before, but in much smaller roles. Her character is sexually repressed, possessive and overbearing, leading to plenty of awkward situations as well as the film’s plot-moving vehicle.
But the film’s biggest problem is its lack of identity. Is this a slapstick comedy or a black comedy? Instead, it shoehorns its way into both and while you will find yourself guiltily laughing at some of the scenes, the film isn’t memorable nor is it a must-see. The film, at its best, is entertaining and hopefully continues the trend of women-led comedies, but is lacking any distinction that will make this a memorable film even five years from now.