For far too long dudes dominated the field of raunchy comedy. That started to change with Bridesmaids, which proved that women could be just as depraved as their male counterparts. Now the relatively new trend of girls together outrageously continues with Rough Night, the comedy from director Lucia Aniello. Rough Night pushes the envelope throughout with its escalating debauchery and provides enough ridiculous hilarity from its talented ensemble cast.
Jess (Scarlett Johansson) is currently running for office in the state senate and has a haircut similar to Hillary Clinton to prove it. Despite being the more competent person on the ballot, she still trails her opponent in the polls despite his predilection for sending out pictures of his genitalia. Jess is about to marry Peter (Paul W. Downs) and will take a break from her campaign to go on her bachelorette party with her close friends from college. The party is orchestrated by Alice (Jillian Bell), a teacher that intensely cherishes her friendship with Jess. They’re joined by Blair (Zoë Kravitz), a New York socialite; Frankie (Ilana Glazer), a hippie-like protester that is currently unemployed; and Pippa (Kate McKinnon), an Australian that befriended Jess when she studied abroad. There are unresolved tensions between the group of friends, but they’re easily set aside for a weekend of hard partying and phallic-shaped knick-knacks. The party is derailed when a stripper arrives and an overeager Alice pounces on the muscular man, hitting his head and killing him. Now these friends must find a way to dispose of the remains in order to evade criminal prosecution.
Lucia Aniello, who co-wrote the film with Paul W. Downs, allows Rough Night to take its time in establishing its characters and the dynamics between them before ramping up the insanity. It allows the movie to find its comedy from its characters and not simply leaning on the morbid premise, which seems like a riff on the dangerous behavior devoid of consequences that dominated The Hangover movies. Having directed episodes of Broad City and last year’s Time Traveling Bong, Aniello further establishes herself as a comedy director on the rise, presenting a sensibility that can dive into the depth of depravity while retaining a certain cerebral level.
Naturally, the standout performances of Rough Night come from the actresses with a background in comedy. Jillian Bell plays a character whose personality is larger than life, and the actress gets big laughs with her earnest enthusiasm. Ilana Glazer has a character that mostly resembles her character on Broad City, a pothead with loose moral and ethical boundaries. As she’s been doing time and time again, Kate McKinnon comes onto the screen and just dominates with another wild comedic performance. Both Scarlett Johansson and Zoë Kravitz are basically the straight characters to their goofy counterparts, and that works to the film’s favor as these characters keep the mounting lunacy somewhat emotionally grounded. It doesn’t take long to form a connection with each of these characters and pull for them when things go bad.
Most surprisingly, though, is the fact that probably the best performance in Rough Night comes in the form of a hilarious turn by Paul W. Downs. As Jess and her friends are raising hell in Miami, Downs’ Peter and his friends are partaking in a wine tasting, sipping Merlot in a quiet setting. When Peter gets a panicked call from Jess, his imagination gets the best of him. He panics and decides to go “sad astronaut,” purchasing large amounts of adult diapers, Red Bull, and Russian-made Adderall for an all-night drive to save his relationship. This leads to some stunning pieces of physical comedy from the actor and writer, as well as a few interesting interactions with strangers along his route.
Rough Night is a thoroughly entertaining comedy with a number of unexpected twists and turns, as well as a couple very inspired and very funny cameos. Be sure to stay through the credits because the comedy doesn’t stop once the first credits roll. Rough Night isn’t a movie that will only work for a single gender. This is a comedy that’s just flat-out funny and unfolds at a quick pace that ensures that any lulls are incredibly brief, and men and women alike will find plenty to loudly guffaw at.