Rough Night is the hard R, off-the-rails lovechild of The Hangover and Weekend at Bernie’s. It’s the first comedy to boast an R-rating and a female-led ensemble to also be directed by a woman in quite some while. Lucia Aniello is no stranger to boundary pushing as a sometime writer and director on Broad City. Like the beloved television show, Rough Night puts female friendship front and center in its comedy. However, unlike the edgy sitcom, Rough Night gets boxed in by its concept, and occasionally suffers for it.
We meet our girl gang in their college days — inseparable, the best of friends. Then we flash forward 10 years. Jess (Scarlett Johansson) is campaigning, rocking a Hillary-cut and trying to make the world a better place. Alice (Jillian Bell) is a teacher, and has spent her free time planning Jess’ bachelorette weekend to the hilt. Frankie (Ilana Glazer) is an activist, who still pines for her old flame, Blair. Blair, for her part, is a high powered real estate agent in New York with a son and a secret separation. Then there’s Pippa, a whimsical Aussie known only to Jess. This whole posse unites in Miami for bachelorette weekend for the ages. To no one’s surprise, everything goes wrong almost immediately.
There is an unintentionally dead stripper, plenty of strife and even more outlandish ideas of how to proceed. From there, the plot falls back to a loose thread that ties everything together, more or less sensibly, but the stakes never feel palpable.
What’s always tangible is the comedy led by the nature of female friendship. The film is at its best when it plays on pizza gags and facades that fail in the face of longtime friends. At its weakest, it is disjointed and in pursuit of the expected laughs for the genre.
Incredibly, Kate McKinnon nearly gets to play the straight man here, and is all the more hilarious for it. Meanwhile, Johansson wears physical comedy and casual dialogue as well as she does any high action turn as a devastating beauty. Ilana Glazer doesn’t get a chance to do anything outside of what we always see from her, and Jillian Bell is similarly boxed into a type, but is given the much meatier role. Like Johansson, Kravitz gets a chance to try comedy on, and doesn’t disappoint. Much of what she does comes in the physicality she chooses for her character, but it doesn’t go unnoticed.
Rough Night is rough around the edges, but for fleeting summer fun, you could make a worse life choice. And, indeed, the cast alone merits a watch, even if they could have done so much more without jumping through hoops in the name of plot.