June 12, 2017

CINEMA | Scarlett Johansson Salvages A 'Rough Night'

"I'm a f*cking sweetheart!"
Scarlett Johansson Kate McKinnon Jillian Bell Ilana Glazer Zoë Kravitz Lucia Aniello | Rough Night

Broad City collaborators, director Lucia Aniello and co-writer Paul W. Downs, take their bawdy, female-driven comedic antics to the big screen. Rough Night is a Bridesmaids meets The Hangover mishmash with the criminal premise of Very Bad Things with a little Weekend at Bernie's thrown in there starring Scarlett Johansson as Jess, a workaholic politician and bride-to-be, on her bachelorette party gone wildly bad.

Estranged college friends, bestie Alice (Jillian Bell), activist Frankie (Ilana Glazer), and flawless Blair (Zoë Kravitz), reunite in Miami for Jess' premarital weekend. Add Kate McKinnon (and her awfully over the top accent) as the Australian friend, Pippa, from Jess' year abroad as the wildcard character (think Zach Galifianakis or Melissa McCarthy) and we're off to the races. Soon, their cocaine-fuelled shenanigans lead to a dead male prostitute and their desperately idiotic but mostly funny attempts to cover it up

The main problem with the uneven film is the growing focus on the increasingly ludicrous and forced plot and how the group is going to either getting rid of a dead body or avoid being charged with manslaughter. Things get occasionally groan-worthy in parts as the tired premise slows down the pace to a crawl for more than a few strange detours. All of the thoughtfully realized relationship dynamics and friendship histories almost threaten to fall away if not for the murderers row of talent in front of and behind the screen.

Scarlett Johansson Kate McKinnon Jillian Bell Ilana Glazer Zoë Kravitz Lucia Aniello | Rough Night

Downs, who also plays Jess' put upon, milk toast fiancé Peter, steals many scenes offering a more tame, alternate bachelor party to contrast the women's bad behaviour. This quickly spins into a hilarious but overdone subplot where Peter in a panic drives all night to see Jess all while wearing adult diapers (call it the "sad astronaut"). Often, his drawn out but hilarious gags and narrative overshadow the more straightforward but dark humour of the women.

What also mostly works in the film is the sense of escalation and the refreshing awareness of the characters in terms of gender and identity. There are thoughtfully layered jokes about many topical subjects and issues concerning groups of women that largely shine. They all feel like friends but their actions and reactions to the strange happenings are not nearly as fresh as contrivances and little twists clearly done to hit certain plot points nearly sink the whole endeavour. Particularly, the awkward and repeated reference to cocaine use is very stilted and unnatural.

Aniello and her writing/real-life partner Downs' comedic storytelling doesn't quite translate completely to the big screen and longer format. However, their development of genuine feeling, specific female relationships all feel fairly fleshed out. I much preferred the sweetly more effective moments of friendship and dramatic tension as opposed to the awkwardly raunchy antics.

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