"Rough Night" Is Almost the Baddest of Badass Bachelorette Movies

© Columbia Pictures
© Columbia Pictures
Photo of Elizabeth Weitzman
19 June 2017

Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, and co. flip gender expectations in the deadly wedding comedy Rough Night. Blame it on Bridesmaids

Everything’s great the first, or second, or even the third time you have friends who get married. The showers, the bachelor/ette parties, and the weddings themselves feel new and fresh and fun. But by the time your cousin’s ex-roommate’s sister walks down the aisle, it’s hard to approach the proceedings with the same level of open-minded enthusiasm.

Rough Night is bound to suffer from been-there-done-that-itis, which is only partially fair. Yes, it’ll remind you of countless other movies, from Weekend at Bernie’s and Very Bad Things to Bachelorette and Bridesmaids. But if you take it on its own merits, you may wind up glad you saw it.

From left to right: Ilana Glazer, Jillian Bell, Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, and Zoë Kravitz in “Rough Night” | © Columbia Pictures

After all, it’s the people involved who really make a wedding special, and we’ve got the ideal hosts here.

Scarlett Johansson is Jess, a workaholic politician who’s reluctantly agreed to take time off for her bachelorette party in Miami. The weekend is being organized by her old college roommate Alice (Jillian Bell), who considers herself Jess’s lifelong BFF.

Also along for the ride are Blair (Zoë Kravitz), a wealthy businesswoman going through a divorce, and Blair’s former girlfriend Frankie (Ilana Glazer), who’s now an unemployed liberal activist.

Rival from Oz

The intensely enthusiastic Alice is determined to have a GREAT TIME EVERY SINGLE SECOND, but the first hitch arrives when Jess’s close friend Pippa (Kate McKinnon) flies in from Australia. Alice is immediately jealous, and so weirdly possessive of Jess that it becomes a bit of a downer. But that doesn’t really compare to the wrench that’s thrown in their plans when Alice accidentally kills the stripper she’s hired.

From left to right: Zoë Kravitz, Ilana Glazer, Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, and Jillian Bell in “Rough Night” | © Columbia Pictures

Yes, the ladies have become responsible for a dead body, which proves stubbornly uncooperative when they try to dispose of it quietly. Meanwhile, Jess’s fiancé Peter (Paul W. Downs) is growing increasingly suspicious. He heads down to Florida on a rescue trip involving amorous truckers, preppy meth heads, and adult diapers.

Outlandish one-liners

The plot description alone has probably already told you if you want to see this movie. And either way, you’re probably right. But if you’ve said “I do,” you’ve made a pretty good choice.

Director Lucia Aniello (“Broad City”) and her co-writer Downs do recycle a few too many ideas from previous movies, and Rough Night definitely has some rough edges. But they’ve also loaded the screenplay with outlandish one-liners, which this cast of pros delivers effortlessly throughout.

Dead weight: Ryan Cooper as the unfortunate stripper in “Rough Night” | © Columbia Pictures

McKinnon, who floats through the film with her preposterous Aussie accent and uber-flaky hippie vibe, is especially funny. Demi Moore and Ty Burrell up the ante as aggressive swingers hoping to get in on the bachelorettes’ action, while the solemn Kravitz makes a strong foil for the unconventionally amorous pair. And Johansson is a comedic delight: she gets laughs by acting perfectly straight in the midst of so much madness.

Boring bachelors?

Aniello and Downs score additional points by flipping the familiar script in amusing ways. While the women are behaving outrageously, Peter and his bachelor crew are back home soberly discussing relationship issues and indulging in some very serious wine tastings.

In fact, the movie’s likely to be judged all the more harshly simply because it reverses so many gender clichés. To judge its sexual politics more seriously than those of The Hangover, say, would be to indulge a double standard this lightweight comedy doesn’t deserve.

Party for all

That said, Rough Night boasts one asset too many of its predecessors don’t: it genuinely likes all its characters (except the dead guy, who is trouble anyway). While so many wedding movies are undercut by an ugly strain of bitterness or misanthropy, this one welcomes everybody: female, male, gay, straight, sentimental, cynical, or even just casually unclassifiable. There’s no judgement here. Isn’t that the kind of party we can all use?

Rough Night is currently in theaters.

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