Film Review: ROUGH NIGHT (USA 2017) ***

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rough_nightThings go terribly wrong for a group of girlfriends who hire a male stripper for a bachelorette party in Miami.

Director: Lucia Aniello
Writers: Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs
Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Zoë Kravitz

 ROUGH NIGHT is that rare chick flick that has sufficient material to satisfy both female and male audiences. Besides the bride-to-be and friends, the film also devotes a fair amount of time to the groom-to-be and his friends. The ending has everyone celebrating the wedding. This is expected in a Hollywood happy ending, so no spoiler is intended.

There are a few things that promises a satisfying comedy. One is the script that was one of the 2015 blacklisted scripts, which usually means a script that matters. The other is that the film is a first effort from female director Aniello, which means she will try her very best to prove herself, never mind a few mistakes mentioned below in this review. It is also about time a film emerged that looked at a female point of view of the HANGOVER films.

The film opens with the college days where five best friends (Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer, and Zoë Kravitz) connect at a fraternity drink party. It is 10 years later when they reunite for a wild bachelorette weekend in Miami. During their hard partying, they accidentally kill a male stripper. Amidst the craziness of trying to conceal their deed, they are ultimately brought closer together where it matters most.

The film has quite a few genuinely hilarious comedic set-ups, but there are quite a few misses as well. For comedy, director Aniello commits three mistakes, which could be considered forgivable considering that this is her debut feature and also that the funny parts make up for these mistakes. One big mistake in comedy is the explaining of a joke. During the airport scene where Alice cracks open a champagne bottle to the sound of a loud pop, everyone dives to the ground thinking it to be a gunshot. Alice remarks after, “Popping the bottle sounds like a shot and we are at the airport.”

The tampon joke is also one that is understood by both male and female. The rule is to never explain a joke. Another is the repeating of a joke. This happens when Alice toasts Jess at a dance club when Pippa pops up a piece of toast as she does not have a drink. This is done three times. The third mistake is trying too hard on a joke that is essentially a failure. This occurs in the scene where the group says solemn words and saying ok , “Dump the body”, before disposing the body of the dancer. The film also falls into the trap of stereotyping – example the activist is a lesbian.

To the film’s credit, the comedic set-ups are related and move smoothly towards the climax of the film, which is the wedding, For the few thrilling parts where the five friends have to tackle the diamond robbers, director Aniello proves her competence at thrills in keeping her audience at the edge of their seats.

Of the five actresses, SNL’s Kate McKinnon succeeds as the funniest of the lot, believable as an Australian with her accent. Jillian Bell comes a close second as the chief troublemaker Scarlett Johansson proves herself apt here in comedy as in other genres like action flicks (LUCY and GHOST IN THE SHELL), art horror (UNDER THE SKIN) and Woody Allen romantic drama comedies (VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA and MATCH POINT).

Despite the film’s flaws, ROUGH NIGHT thankfully succeeds as a satisfying comedy for both sexes. There are enough off-coloured jokes, foul language, tasteful sexual innuendo (the vibrating dildo) and a few messages about the importance of friendships (cliched though they may be) that result in a satisfying hilarious night out.


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