Film Review: Rough Night (USA, 2017) brings plenty of laughs from a strong cast in a disjointed dark comedy

Lazily touted in headlines as “The Hangover for women” by writers who couldn’t possibly find another film to compare it to from the last decade (Bachelorette or Bridesmaids immediately come to mind, both of which were also compared to The Hangover at the time of release – hell, even Bad Moms was!), Rough Night is a dark comedy bringing together three of the funniest actors working today – Jillian Bell (Workaholics, 22 Jump Street), Ilana Glazer (Broad City) and Kate McKinnon (SNL, Office Christmas Party) – alongside the talented Zoë Kravitz and Scarlett Johansson, for a stab at the “let’s see how bad things can get for our lovable main characters on a night out” genre.

The film takes us away on a Bachelorette weekend with our five leading stars, where Jess (Johansson) plays the bride-to-be, and a confusingly young political candidate. As their night develops, the quintet of College friends accidentally kill a male stripper (not unlike in Very Bad Things), and rather than go to prison, they decide they need to get rid of the body – because that plan always work. As the friends scuffle, not unlike in Bridesmaids (in fact, exactly like in Bridesmaids), some Weekend at Bernie’s-esque moments ensue and plenty of laughs are had – even though by the time the death takes place, the audience seems unsure what’s funny anymore. It could be fair to say the scene served as the most potent tonal shift since those teenagers discovered what was really going on in Hostel. Or it would have, if the cast wasn’t so hilarious.

Though the film follows plenty of familiar tropes, the film succeeds on the strength of its cast. Jillian Bell serves as the film’s standout, able to deliver laughs in scenes that really shouldn’t be that funny – a fact unsurprising for any fans of her work in Workaholics. Kate McKinnon is also as hilarious as ever, while Australian audiences will either be greatly offended or amused by her stab at the Aussie accent. It’s fair to say most will sit in the latter category, though any claim that she “nailed it” is truly mislead (but besides the point anyway).

Ty Burrell (Modern Family) and Demi Moore guest as the sexually adventurous neighbours of the Miami party house, and add some great moments, for Burrell’s makeup alone – though for a film that didn’t worry about the R-Rating on a language front, their scenes were surprisingly PG. You’ll see what I mean when you see the film, but let’s just say they leave most of it to your imagination.

While the main plot line develops, Jess’s husband-to-be Peter (Paul W. Downs, who co-wrote the film with director and fellow Broad City scribe Lucia Aniello), is at his Bachelor party, a wine tasting with his group of rather boring friends, including an under-utilised Eric Andre, in a reasonably exaggerated subversion of the sexes. A miscommunication over the phone leads Peter to think that Jess has broken up with him, which sets him to a quest down the coast to Miami to try and win her back. The film is at its weakest when it jumps to Peter’s developing situation, which feels at odds with the tone and pace of the rest of the film, leaving the whole piece feeling slightly disjointed. It’s not that it’s not entertaining, more that it’s just too… silly. And for a film that already sits with a pretty ridiculous scenario, and features a death that already serves a massive tonal shift, the scenes prove unnecessary.

While Rough Night succeeds in bringing plenty of laughs, thanks to its hilarious cast and some well placed scenarios (an early moment in the airport was a stroke of genius), ultimately the film is a disjointed dark comedy that wants to exist in a genre populated by strokes of genius like Fargo, but is relegated to the likes of Bachelorette and, yes, The Hangover. Sure, it never pretended to be anything it wasn’t, and being in this category isn’t a bad thing, you can’t help but feel like they slightly missed the mark in the execution. But then again, if you’re just looking for a few laughs, you won’t go wrong here.

Make sure you stay to the end of the credits, too  – a surprisingly important (and pretty hilarious) scene is tucked away at the end you won’t want to miss.


Rough Night is in cinemas today.