tv + film by Philbert Dy

‘Rough Night’ has Scattered Laughs

Unwilling to go too dark, this comedy lands squarely in the middle of the road

NBHD movie 2-2 ticketsRough Night is about the bachelorette weekend of Jess (Scarlett Johansson), who is in the middle of a campaign for state senator. She flies out to Miami to spend the weekend with her best friends from college, Alice, Blair, and Frankie (Jillian Bell, Zoe Kravitz and Ilana Glazer), as well as her semester-abroad-buddy Pippa (Kate McKinnon). A wild night that involves drinks and drugs takes a sharp turn when they accidentally end up killing the male stripper they hired for the night. Still high and frantic, the girls try to cover their bases before they contact the police, and that only leads to more trouble.Screen Shot 2017-08-10 at 6.55.15 PMIt doesn’t take long for the movie to introduce its characters as broad types: Jess is a workaholic, Alice is needy and inappropriate, Blair is rich, and Frankie is an activist. Later, when Pippa is introduced, there really isn’t much more to her than her being Australian and a little wacky. Having established these characters based on singular traits, the movie basically plays the same note for each of them throughout the runtime. Worse yet, after raising the stakes, the movie doesn’t really give them much of a chance to be funny.Screen Shot 2017-08-10 at 6.55.33 PMThere is darkness built into the premise of this film, but this is ultimately a mainstream studio comedy. And this means that things can’t really get all that weird. It means that these characters will ultimately not really be confronted with the darkness of what they’ve experienced. In the end, the film necessarily acquits its characters of wrongdoing and has them dancing around pat sentiments about friendship and togetherness. It doesn’t really earn its resolution, the movie even weirdly forgetting one of its elements on the way to its rather predictable ending.Screen Shot 2017-08-10 at 6.58.22 PMThere’s just a severe lack of surprise for a film that is about five women accidentally killing somebody. It’s so determined to keep its characters within a certain range of behavior that they become boring and a little annoying. There are scattered laughs throughout, the film at its best when it lets the characters color a bit outside the lines. But those moments are few and far in between. For the most part, the film seems to be happy to play out schematically.Screen Shot 2017-08-10 at 6.58.58 PMThe five women are the center of the film are terribly talented, which makes it all the more disappointing that they’re given so little room to break out. Scarlett Johansson is caged up playing the straight man to all the shenanigans. The character is written to be so oddly devoid of fun, and Johansson doesn’t really do anything to remedy that. Jillain Bell is a scene-stealer, certainly, but her character’s schtick gets old pretty quickly. Zoe Kravitz and Ilana Glazer aren’t really given enough to do. Kate McKinnon acquits herself best as Pippa, the character given the most leeway to be just outright strange. But even McKinnon feels oddly restrained in this role.Screen Shot 2017-08-10 at 7.00.23 PMRough Night isn’t really bad, exactly. There are laughs, and the cast is certainly game. It just feels tepid, the film just unwilling to really go crazy. It presents a powderkeg of a situation that never really explodes, the characters never really allowed to confront the extent of their misbehavior, never made to suffer the consequences of their choices. Instead, the movie defaults to broad platitudes and a feel-good resolution that might be best described as “studio-mandated.”

ROUGH NIGHT IS NOW SHOWING IN CINEMAS NATIONWIDE.
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Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.
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