“Rough Night” comes from two of the writers and directors of Comedy Central’s very funny “Broad City,” Lucia Aniello and Paul W. Downs, and features one of its stars, Ilana Glazer. The dark, zealously silly plot — five bachelorette-partiers accidentally kill a male stripper and attempt a cover-up — would be at home on the show.
So why doesn’t it work? Why does most of the film fall flat? Let’s explore.
Scarlett Johansson plays the bride-to-be, Jess, a political candidate with a stiff public persona and a Justin Bieber haircut. She’s starting to forget her best friends from college, who are: clingy Alice (Jillian Bell); rich Blair (Zoe Kravitz); lesbian activist Frankie (Ilana Glazer); and Australian kook Pippa (Kate McKinnon). The five meet in Miami for a raucous pre-wedding weekend, drink a lot, take some drugs, and invite a stripper to their beachfront rental house.
The death is an accident, but the woman make it worse by tampering with the scene and moving the body. This sets in motion a series of efforts to dispose of the corpse, to retrieve evidence from the neighbors’ surveillance cameras, and to do all the other things one must do in a zany comedy under these circumstances.
Meanwhile, Jess’s fiancé, Peter (played by co-writer Downs), misunderstands a phone call, thinks the wedding is off, and hurries to Miami to intervene. To save time, he follows the “sad astronaut” plan of wearing adult diapers so he can drive straight through.
On paper, all of this is fine. On paper, it’s a madcap farce that would work as a “Broad City” episode (maybe a two-parter). But the movie, of course, is the length of five episodes, stretching the premise beyond its breaking point. Moreover, director Aniello seems to have thought that it needed emotional grounding. So instead of embracing its two-dimensional farcicality, the movie tries to pass off its stock characters as real people who have relationship crises in the middle of the third act.
But that doesn’t work! If these are real people, they’re AWFUL. We can only enjoy them if the film maintains a sense that nothing matters. Why is it so hard to commit to fast-paced, door-slamming, identity-mistaking, corpse-hiding farce?
That’s what this movie desperately wants to be: a breezy, high-stakes comedy where everything’s resolved through deus ex machina and coincidence. Instead, though it has scattered chuckles, the film is largely a failure, with a cast that lacks chemistry and a script that even Kate McKinnon can’t make funny. It’s a manic premise, but Aniello never gets the energy up to the zippy level required to pull off such mania.
D (1 hr., 41 min.; )