Okay, before we start this, does Hollywood actually know how old Zoe Kravitz is? Sure, she’s playing an adult in this movie but only like two years ago she was still playing teenagers. Oh well, what are we doing here? Oh yeah, I’m reviewing Rough Night.
Ah, the old killing the stripper during a senator’s bachelorette party weekend storyline. How many times have we seen that old chestnut put to screen? In actuality, this is one of the most original ideas for a comedy that I’ve seen in a while. Granted, sex workers die in fiction all the time, but rarely is that used as the entire basis of a plot. It’s kind of like if you took the spin the bottle trope and then revolved an entire storyline of a movie around it. The story of Rough Night is, in its entirety, pretty creative. It begins with a group of old friends from college who are reconvening after many years for Scarlett Johansson’s bachelorette party. That’s her character, by the way, not actually Scarlett Johansson. That would just be weird. Anyway, after a night of booze and drugs, they order a stripper only to inadvertently cause his untimely demise. Untimely, not only in the sense that he dies at a young age but also because Johansson is running for state senate and can’t have any scandals tainting her public image. And thus, this romp of a movie begins.
And it really is a romp. If there is one way to describe this movie, it would be entertaining. And that’s all you really want in a film like this, right? Is to be entertained. The writers do an admirable job of keeping the story interesting and moving in fun ways so that you are pretty well having a good time the whole movie. Each of the five actresses in the leads, Scarlett Johansson, Zoe Kravitz, Iliana Glazer, Jillian Bell, and Kate McKinnon are funny and engaging to the audience. The film is well directed by first-time filmmaker Lucia Aniello and, as I said before, it has a really great idea behind it. The problem is the movie just falls short in a number of areas. While it does have a few hysterical moments, for the most part, it’s just kind of lightly funny. If I were to describe the quality we’re receiving here, I would say it’s comparable to a really good tv show. It’s The Office funny, it’s not Superbad funny. This is a boundary that many comedies struggle to overcome, as it’s just not possible for every comedy that gets released to be the next legendary cult classic. This movie feels like if you smushed The Hangover and Bridesmaids together, but not creating a final product that is as good as either of those films. It is still, however, consistently mildly funny throughout, which is not something that can be said for many comedies that get released these days. Here’s looking at you, Baywatch.
This movie is also pretty uneven. The first act feels considerably more uneven than the rest, which makes sense, as there isn’t any post-stripper-death hilarity to drive the characters and their comedic stylings. I would say that when this movie is focusing on the issue at hand: the dead guy, it’s great. Whenever it strays off into other territory is where it starts to lose me. They include lots of character emotion and drama in this film which works sometimes, and sometimes really doesn’t. I think if they pared that down a little bit, or at the very least redirected it to be more appropriate to the clear and present danger of arrest and/or defamation, this movie could have worked a lot more. There are scenes where characters will sit down to discuss their feelings of abandonment and nostalgic wistfulness while there is a dead barely clothed man in the next room and the threat of exposure around the corner. It’s not that these scenes are bad per se, they grind the movie to a hault every time they’re incorporated. Probably the standout of the film is the subplot in which the fiancee and his metrosexual groomsmen struggle with their own problems. These scenes always felt fresh and were brilliantly juxtaposed with the rest of the action.
All in all, I’d say this movie is pretty good. It does have its issues, and while the idea itself is pretty creative, the story’s twists and turns are fairly textbook. But with a movie like this, that’s okay, as you don’t go see Rough Night for some Park-Chan-wook-level twists, you go to see something fun, and something fun is what you get. Is it the next 21 Jump Street? No, but that’s alright. It’s a great Redbox viewer, I’ll give it that much. And hey, if it spawns a series of knockoffs that revolve around dead strippers in a comedic manner, that’s fine by me.
All images are from Rough Night, from Sony Pictures