“ROUGH NIGHT” IS A TOUGH RIDE FOR A WANNABE BLACK COMEDY
A Film Review by Tim Riley
ROUGH NIGHT (Rated R) I am hoping that I have not lost my sense of humor because sitting through the so-called comedy “Rough Night” elicited few laughs and not many chuckles for a movie focused on a bachelorette weekend gone terribly wrong.n My disappointment may have been shared with an audience of regular folks (i.e., not critics) who seemed equally lacking enthusiasm for what may be charitably described as a female version of “The Hangover.”
Actually, “Rough Night” also shares an affinity with several other much better films, such as the female-centric and very funny “Bridesmaids” as well as with the offbeat sensibility of “Weekend at Bernie’s.” To reach for an even darker humor parallel, “Rough Night” touches similar themes with the extremely black comedy “Very Bad Things” about a groom-to-be and four friends on a bachelor party weekend in Vegas that involves the death of a stripper, among other mishaps, in their hotel room. “Rough Night” has some promise with a talented cast, beginning with Scarlett Johannson as Jess Thayer, an uptight candidate for the state senate whose four friends from college suggest a weekend getaway to Miami to celebrate her pending marriage.
We never get to know much about these characters, though the story begins with a flashback to senior year ten years ago when Jess and her friend Alice (Jillian Bell) win a ping-pong ball toss contest to beat some frat guys. Aside from that brief introduction, it’s a key element to the story that Alice and Jess were best friends in college, but the career-driven Jess has moved on to bigger plans while Alice is the type who only wants to relive the glory days of the past.
This dynamic between the two college friends forms the basis for some friction tinged with jealousy when the possessive Alice, a school teacher who probably keeps her job only because of tenure, exhibits flashes of resentment that are meant to be comic..Other members of the group include two very different characters whose paths have taken widely divergent turns. Frankie (Ilana Glazer) is the consummate full-time activist who is so often on the wrong side of the law that she must have her lawyer on speed dial.
Meanwhile, the successful, straight-laced and proper Blair (Zoe Kravitz) hides behind the façade of having the perfect life while actually she’s separated from her husband and engaged in a bitter custody battle for her child. Indeed, Blair and Frankie seemingly have little in common now, though in college they had an intense relationship that just might bubble back up to the surface given the circumstances of a hectic weekend of partying.
The fourth friend to join the group is the eccentric Pippa (Kate McKinnon), a free-spirit from Australia who became friends with Jess when she spent a semester studying abroad down-under. The others derisively call her “Kiwi,” a term associated with New Zealand, but no matter. Kate McKinnon has an organic nature of coming timing, which comes from her many celebrity impressions and sketches as the result of being a cast member on the long-running “Saturday Night Live.”
On their first night in Miami, the girls go nightclubbing, drink excessive amounts of booze, snort cocaine and top off the evening with a hired male stripper coming to the rented beach house. This is all right out of the playbook for similar comedies. Too much excitement leads to the accidental death of the male visitor (shades of “Very Bad Things”) and things take an even worse turn when the women decide the best course of action is to try to hide the corpse, a hard thing to do in a house with floor-to-ceiling windows. Covering up this unfortunate situation is complicated by the fact that the lustful, nosy next-door neighbors (Demi Moore and Ty Burrell) are creepy middle-aged swingers who very much want to hook up with the sexy Blair for a threesome.
Meanwhile, in a complete role-reversal, Jess’s doting fiancé Peter (Paul W. Downs), who knows that his future bride is out of his league, is spending the weekend with his friends at a sedate wine and cheese-tasting. Things get mildly amusing when Peter freaks out thinking Jess has decided to call off the wedding and then jumps in his car wearing adult diapers so that he can drive non-stop to Miami while drinking copious amounts of Red Bull.
Oddly enough, I found the funniest scene to be one where two of the women, disguised in facial cream, ask two patrons at a convenience store to buy them burner phones and the very elderly customers make a derogatory remark about Baby Boomers being so demanding. The most important request to be made of any comedy is that it should induce hearty laughter, and on that score “Rough Night,” at least in my estimation, doesn’t produce enough funny material to be worthy of recommendation.