Jess (Scarlett Johansson), Alice (Jillian Bell), Frankie (Ilana Glazer) and Blair (Zoë Kravitz) become close friends in college, relishing in the joys of their party-filled lives. Ten years later, Jess is getting married and the group, especially Alice, are determined to make her bachelorette night one to remember. Jess’s Australian friend Pippa (Kate McKinnon) also joins them for the evening, which starts out as great craic but goes horribly wrong after a fatal accident…
While in the US, Rough Night was released last June, and therefore before Girls Trip (which recently passed $100 million in the box office), here in Ireland, Girls Trip was released first. The two are strikingly similar, not only in their plots but also in a number of scenes (both, for example, have a reunion at the airport, dance routine, and cat fight in the third act). However, it was Girls Trip that triumphed both in the BO and with critics, thus Rough Night exactly isn’t off to the best start as it enters cinemas internationally. That said, the film is not as terrible as some have proclaimed, though it has several issues.
Beginning with the negatives, the opening scenes which establish the women’s college days and where they are in the present, fall pretty much dead flat comically. While director and co-writer Lucia Aniello has worked on the hit series Broad City (of which cast members Ilana Glazer and Paul W. Downs can be found in Rough Night), this is her debut feature film and that inexperience comes through in her reliance on types (the leader, the hippy, the single mom, the crazy one) over more rounded characters. The audience never really warms up to any of the women. Jillian Bell, that actress who curses and says outrageous things, like an American Rebel Wilson, proves particularly annoying. She always plays the same character, and while it worked in past films, such as in 22 Jump Street, the routine has grown old.
Fortunately, SNL’s Kate McKinnon comes to the rescue (as she has done for many movies, including Goosebumps), breathing life back into the movie. I’d go as far as to say her character’s arrival could have helped the movie more if it had only come sooner. The delivery of every line, heck, every facial expression she makes, is comic brilliance, and if she wasn’t in this film, it probably wouldn’t have any redeemable qualities at all. Before she arrives, moments such as a girl peeing on the floor, someone’s vibrator going off, and the ‘hilarity’ of penis-shaped accessories and food are relied on for laughs – it’s just plain frustrating when comedies surrounding female characters can’t get past jokes to do with periods slash vaginas slash sex. As a point of comparison, even though they appear for far less screen time, the male characters (in a side-plot, we see what Jess’ fiancé Peter (Downs) get up to on his much tamer bachelor night, and how he ends up leaving it to go find Jess) get way more laughs on average.
While its middle chunk is somewhat entertaining (thanks pretty much solely to the aforementioned Kate McKinnon as well as the surprisingly charismatic and funny Paul W. Downs), the beginning is clichéd and predictable while the finale is much the same. The movie is also full of plot holes and extremely silly, but those elements are forgivable. Its lack of laugh-out-loud moments and unlikeable characters is not.