"Rough Night" is a rough film
Five 30-something women venture into a borrowed oceanside house for a bachelorette party, penis-shaped accoutrements and high expectations in hand.
Jess, the bride-to-be at the center of the celebrations, cautions her friend Blair to be careful with her red wine around the white carpet.
By the end of the night though, the thing that will threaten the carpet won’t be the wine, but blood from the male stripper they accidentally kill.
“Rough Night” is the most recent incarnation in the rich tradition of the ladies’ night out genre.
There are few surprises in store for anyone who has seen “Bridesmaids,” “Bachelorette” or this film’s trailer. But even though the plot fails to inspire, there are plenty of laughs to be had from some of comedy’s funniest women.
Scarlett Johannson leads the cast as the perfectly average Jess, an everywoman trying to balance work as a politician, her relationship and the exuberance of her former college roommate, Alice (Jillian Bell). A teacher, Alice is hungry for a night of hedonism and keeps the plot moving with increasingly poor decisions.
Frankie, played by Ilana Glazer, is perhaps the most on-the-nose 2017 character in the film, playing a full-time activist (Frankie trying to reason with her captor: “Look, I know you’re mad at the one percent, I am too”).
Glazer, in her first big role on the big screen, plays essentially the same role she plays on “Broad City.”
Some of her jokes might land better in an episode of that show, as they’re a little offbeat in “Rough Night.” Zöe Kravitz, playing Frankie’s former girlfriend Blair, is almost unrecognizable when she appears with an upper-Manhattan bob and the adopted upper class values of her new life as an unspecified professional and recent divorcée.
And as with every ensemble Kate McKinnon is a part of, hers is the scene-stealing role: Pippa the Australian best friend from a study abroad program, who is a welcome outside perspective to the American women in the bachelorette party.
Pippa explaining the situation as she understands it: “You see, we’ve committed what’s known in Florida as a good murder.”
Paul W. Downs, another “Broad City” alum, plays Jess’s fiancé Peter.
The debauchery of Jess’s bachelorette party is intercut with scenes of Peter and his gentle male friends (Bo Burnham and an unusually subdued Eric Andre make appearances) on a wine-tasting excursion to celebrate Peter’s bachelor party.
If it wasn’t for the cuddly college scenes that establish the origin story of these women’s relationship to each other, their friendship would be almost unbelievable.
The tension between Blair and Frankie (former flames), Alice’s jealous, one-woman feud with Pippa over the role of best friend to Jess, and Alice and Jess’s mismatched levels of friendship make for some uncomfortable screen time that leans on the cliché of female cattiness.
But, 10 years after their college years together, perhaps this the most realistic portrayal of women who have had a whole decade to grow into different people. These women, each of them a caricature of a modern woman – the noble politician, the glamorous divorcée, the caregiver, the activist, the crunchy hippie – operate best on their own.
When they come together under the absurd scenario of a murdered stripper, the dynamics are dysfunctional but entertaining.
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