“Rough Night” (2017)
Running Time: 101 minutes
Written by: Lucia Aniello & Paul W. Downs
Directed by: Lucia Aniello
Featuring: Scarlett Johansson, Zoë Kravitz, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell and Ilana Glazer
Alice: “Okay, before we go we got to do the human friendipede, yeah?”
Pippa: “What is a human friendipede?”
Alice: “It’s a photo we always take that’s like the movie Human Centipede, where they’re sewn together mouth to anus, but it’s with friends so it’s special. I get the middle!”
Frankie: “Why do you want the middle?”
Well another week and yet another US comedy has been released on DVD & Blu-ray, a movie that held such promise with its premise ends up being another in a long line of missed opportunities as well as just being very unfunny as well as awkward, for everyone involved, the writers, director, the actors and most especially us, the audience.
I can actually see the appeal of “Rough Night” (2017), a group of women coming together to celebrate a friends wedding when things go wrong and hilarity ensues. It’s a shame as this really is not that movie, in fact it is seriously unfunny which is a shame as all the actors that appear, especially the women are all extremely talented, even if one or two of them are untested in comedy waters. But still with the talents of Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell and Ilana Glazer you would think they could add something, unfortunately that is not the case.
The movie begins in 2006, four friends, Jess, Alice, Frankie and Blair, bond during their first year of college. A decade later they reunite as Jess is about to get married to her fiancé Peter. Alice decides that the four should spend the weekend in Miami partying. They are also joined by Pippa, Jess’s friend from her semester in Australia. The friends get high and party at a club and then decide to hire a male stripper. When the stripper arrives at the door, he makes Jess uncomfortable with his rough talk. Alice decides to take a turn and jumps on him, causing them to both fall and the stripper to hit his head on the edge of the fireplace, killing him.
From this point the movie attempts to walk a line between some kind of believability, as well as a fantasy world that reads like a womens version of the “The Hangover” (2011) or at least it attempts to inhabit that world. What the filmmakers should have done is to embrace one or the other. Too many comedies this year are attempting to hybridize their narratives by adding either action, thriller elements or even horror elements to no avail. What directors and screenwriters need to do is firstly write a script that is funny and makes logical sense, all the other bells and whistles can come later when further drafts are written. It seems to me that initial ideas are enough and talent is built around them which is not a sound way to operate. One other aspect of modern comedies is the feeling that too many rely, and then fail, through the need to improvise much of their performances which is a huge mistake. This not only divides the narrative of the film but can then lead to a competition among the cast which again removes focus from the point of the film. That is not to say that improvisation is not necessarily a negative but the difference between a movie like “Anchorman” (2004) which has elements of improvisation but at its heart has a story, and a movie like “Rough Night” which meanders and has large chunks that are unfunny I think is obvious to anyone.
The cast that has been assembled is top notch, with experience versus novice talent that do, in most cases, compliment each other but they all seem to be pulling in different directions with no feeling of chemistry between any of them, even when they are supposed to be friends with some commonalities. In fact the entire movie feels rushed somewhat, with little time given to know the characters, there is only the cursory introduction to each of the woman, they are only really outlines of real people which again, can damage a comedy, as we feel no real allegiance to any of them – something it has in common again, with many other similar comedies produced this year. The leads are Scarlett Johansson, Zoë Kravitz, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell and Ilana Glazer who are all great talents, the comedy is definitely led by McKinnon, Bell and Glazer who really do anchor the movie, but it is Kravitz and Johansson who seem a little lost within their roles and for all intent and purposes are the straight ‘men’, serving up the jokes for the others to hit them out of the park, so to speak.
“Rough Night” has been written by Lucia Aniello & Paul W. Downs, as well as being directed by Aniello, the creators of the excellent “Broad City” (2014 – ) television series. Whilst that is a good recommendation and you would be right in thinking that their talents and vision should translate to the big screen the fact that it doesn’t is probably not a fair reflection of their talents. There is a divide between movies and television and that is whilst one is a writer’s medium, television, the other is a definite producer/director medium, this is where they have fallen down. I belive that they may have even had a different script or vision which was mishandled by producers, and the movies eventual stars, which is not uncommon in Hollywood movies that are seen as vehicles as well as sure fire hits – which this was definitley not.
This movie was such a let down in terms of the talent involved and what ended up on screen. What should have been a fun feminist comedy about possible marriage, friendship as well as what it means to have relationships in this new millennial ultimately becomes nothing more than a one act mess about the death of a possible stripper – even this is not stuck to with a lame save for the ladies after they are found out. This just comes of as a less edgy female copy (three time removed) of “The Hangover” which time has not been kind to. If I were you I would gove this a wide berth, then you wont have a rough night.
“Rough Night” is out now on DVD & Blu-ray.