By: Christian Harding (Three Beers) –
A recent trend that seems to be flourishing in modern Hollywood is the R-rated, female driven comedy. There have always been films of that sort in the guise of popular culture for at least a couple of decades, but in the last few years there appears to have been a massive influx of these types of comedies. This was most likely prompted by the surprise hit of Bridesmaids back in 2011, and has continued just as recently as last year with the pleasant surprise Bad Moms. Among the most recent iterations of this trend is Rough Night, a lightweight but entertaining summer diversion that boasts a pretty solid cast and mostly utilizes them well, whenever the film manages to stay focused on the jokes and isn’t trying to aim for anything outside of its creative boundaries.
As is the case with most modern comedies, the specifics of the plot aren’t super important. But to summarize quickly, Rough Night involves a bachelorette party held for Scarlett Johansson’s bride to be, and attended by an old group of college friends (Jillian Bell, Kate McKinnon, Zoe Kravitz, and Ilana Glazer, respectively). Soon after the festivities start, things go south pretty quickly, and the majority of the film’s plot, as well as the humor, comes in the form of how awfully things turn out and the ideas everybody involved has in trying to get themselves out of the increasingly disastrous situation. A lot of the film’s strengths rest on the chemistry between all five leading ladies, and fortunately they’re all up to the task. There really isn’t a weak link among them and each one is given plenty of humor to work with, and nobody given the generic ‘stick in the mud’ unfunny role. Each one fulfills their roles perfectly well, and no one person aims to steal the show out from the others, with each actress given their proper share of the spotlight.
For all that Rough Night relies on the charms and chemistry of its five leads, the film occasionally seems content to fall back on obvious gags and raunchy humor, much to its detriment. While these sections don’t necessarily derail the film to the degree of something like the recent Baywatch adaptation, they do stick out like a sore thumb amidst the otherwise low-key, character-based humor that most of the structure is built upon.
Another regrettable tendency in regards to Rough Night’s handling and delivery of its humor is that it has a lot of repeated jokes and over-explaining of some otherwise surface level, obvious humor. Listing a few examples here would be redundant and likely ruin the impact when the jokes happen, but just take my word for it. Another irritating repeated trend (though this is something that by no means only impacts this one film specifically) is the long stretches of strained, tiresome improv and ad-libbing, most of which isn’t terribly clever and usually just distracts from the stakes of the actual plot going on. Again, it’s not something that only applies to this one film, but it’s a lazy habit that most modern comedies seem to suffer from, and it always feels at odds with the tone and style of the rest of the film whenever it’s used here.
All in all, Rough Night is a pretty fun time at the cinema. It’s certainly among the better R-rated mainstream comedies as of late, and elevated by a strong ensemble cast. Nothing revolutionary within the genre, but it gets the job done well enough and provides enough midbudget entertainment for those who need a smaller-scaled alternative to all the multi-million dollar spectacles competing for ticket prices. It’s getting released at arguably the perfect time of year for this sort of thing, so go check it out while the timing still feels right.
Rough Night (2017) Drinking Game
Do a Shot: whenever the characters do.
Do another Shot: *Mild spoilers* for each failed attempt to dispose of the dead stripper’s body.
Finish your Glass: during all of the jokes at the expense Kate McKinnon’s Aussie.
Shotgun a Beer: when you become more invested in the subplot involving Scarjo’s fiance than the main one.