Cinema Dispatch: Rough Night

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Rough Night and all the images you see in this review are owned by Columbia Pictures

Directed by Lucia Aniello

Out of all the movies to come out this year… this is certainly one of them.  Honestly, I think I only saw one trailer for this thing and it seemed just fine, but nothing all that inspired.  Sure, the cast is REALLY solid with a bunch of extremely talented comedians, but we just go through Baywatch which no one but me liked and honestly Raunchy comedies WITHOUT such a high concept as a beach movie starring God’s Gift to Humanity (we mortals have deemed him THE ROCK) aren’t usually my cup of tea as they tend to prefer pushing buttons than be genuinely funny.  Does this movie manage to be an exception to the rule when it comes to telling dirty jokes, or are we in for a long night of sub par genital jokes and bottom of the barrel toilet humor?  Let’s find out!!

The movie follows the exploits of five friends who are Jess (Scarlett Johnansson), Alice (Jillian Bell), Frankie (Ilana Glazer), Blair (Zoë Kravitz), and the relative newcomer to the group Pippa (Kate McKinnon).  The first four were all friends in college but have started to drift apart now that life and responsibilities keep getting in the way and are off to reconnect in Miami, along with Pippa who met Jess in Australia, for a bachelorette party.  Jess, the bride to be, is hesitant at first but gets into the spirt of things… right at the point where a stripper they hired (a SUSPICIOUS looking stripper!) is accidently murdered by Alice.  With so much going on in their lives none of them can afford to go to jail, so they start coming up with increasingly ridiculous and desperate ways to get rid of the body and try to forget this whole thing ever happened.  Will these five friends find some way to heal the rift that has built up between them despite there being a dead body in the room?  What will Jess’s soon to be husband Peter (Paul W Downs) think when he gets a panicked phone call that doesn’t explain what’s going on?  Will this AT LEAST be better than the Hangover sequels!?

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“With this shot, we agree to never speak of this night again.”     “Sounds good to me!”

Looking back on it, this has actually been a pretty good year for Raunchy Comedies considering how few TRULY awful or boring ones we’ve gotten so far, and this is may end up being one of the better ones as it’s a rather interesting and noteworthy entry in the genre.  Sure, we had the hateful garbage known as Fist Fight as well as the mediocre Snatched this year, but last year we had Dirty Grandpa, Keeping Up with the Joneses, Masterminds; all of which were completely unbearable, lacked any sort of nuance, and had very little humor.  Baywatch may not have caught on with critics or audiences, but I get the feeling that this movie is gonna get a bit more love across the board; especially for those who liked Bridesmaids (a movie I’m not particularly fond of) as it covers a lot of the same ground but doesn’t feel like a retread.  It’s not the easiest task in the world to explain why a comedy is funny considering how wildly varied everyone’s sense of humor is (if that wasn’t the case, then Adam Sandler wouldn’t have had so much success on Netflix) but there’s a certain level of authenticity to the humor that, like Wonder Woman, can probably be traced back to the female director who is Lucia Aniello of Broad City fame.  It’s FAR from perfect as it ends up having a lot of the same problems as other mainstream Raunchy Comedies, but I think there’s something to this that’ll really resonate with people and hopefully lead to more movies like it.

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I mean… if they wanted to have a second Ghostbusters team…

Like a lot of great comedies, the strength of this lies in two areas primarily; the jokes written for the characters and the actors they got to play them.  This movie excels in both as the humor is a rock solid seventy to eighty percent hit rate, and the cast is incredibly charming to watch.  We’ve got obviously great comedic actors like Kate McKinnon and Jillian Bell (both of which are too often wasted in lesser films) but everyone across the board brings their A game to material that may not have worked as well if the cast wasn’t as game as they clearly were when making this.  Zoë Kravitz has a great subtlety to her performances as the most grounded of the bunch, Ilana Glazer does a lot of the heavy lifting without taking the spotlight (a bit of a Larry Fine type if you will and NOT just because they have the same haircut), and Scarlett Johansson proves herself to be more than capable of being a strong addition to the cast; not just being the one they needed to shove in there so they can sell tickets to the masses.  She gets to the be straight woman which is often the case when you tack a big celebrity onto a film full of comedians, but she makes the most of the role which can basically be described as Leslie Knope if she had a lot more common sense; genuinely passionate about what she does but is much more awkward than she’d like to admit.  That’s not even getting into the support roles played by Paul W Downs, Ty Burrell, Demi Moore, DEAN FREAKING WINTERS, and several others who all get to have funny bits without overstaying their welcome.  Well… okay, Paul W Downs subplot is a BIT much, but we’ll get to the flaws soon enough.  The point is that there really isn’t a weak point in this cast which isn’t always easy to pull off in a film like this that relies so much on sharply written character moments.

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“How’s it going over there?”     “QUIET!  YOU MUST NOT INTERRUPT MY WORK!!”

Even the editing and pacing, which are often a problem with Raunchy Comedies, is incredibly tight and keeps the movie flowing at a steady rhythm with very few wasted moments when the film is firing on all cylinders.  I have no idea how much adlibbing was done in this movie, but it certainly doesn’t FEEL like there was because movies that rely too much on letting comedies go off tend to lose any real sense of structure which is a pitfall this movie thankfully avoids as the script constantly gives the characters something new to do and some sort of goal they need to achieve.  Compare this to something like Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates which is probably the best modern example I can think of for those kinds of problems.  The premise doesn’t lend itself to any sort of flow or story arc and there are scenes of people just spouting jokes that go on way too long.  Because of this, the movie felt very directionless and scenes could be rearranged in almost any order without any serious impact on the non-existent pacing.  The fact that things keep escalating over the course of this night is one of the saving graces here as stressful situations lend themselves greatly to comedy and hijinks.  It’s not perfect as the aforementioned subplot with Paul W Downs is easily the most outlandish part of all this (also making it the hardest to have any investment in) and can sometimes drag things down whenever we cut back to him, but it’s still one of the best structured comedies we’ve gotten in quite some time.

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“Has anyone here seen Breaking Bad?”     “It’s on my Netflix queue, alright!?”

Now unfortunately the movie does have one major flaw which is the scripting as there are quite a few plot holes and plenty of moments where the premise stretches itself too far.  I’ll try not to spoil anything as I do recommend seeing this movie, but the reason for ANY of this to be happening (the inciting incident that sets the plot in motion) makes no sense once we know how everything eventually plays out.  It’s irritating because it’s one of those things that’s REALLY gonna hinder repeat viewings because one of the mysteries simply goes unexplained by the time we get to the end.  There’s also two MacGuffins that are infuriatingly obvious the moment they are shown in the film with one in particular being CONSTANTLY SHOWN IN THE BACKGROUND in almost every shot.  It’s like an annoying photo bomber that insists on always getting in the way, and while it MIGHT have worked if they called attention to it at some point, it easily something that could have been introduced much later and not have cluttered the background through nearly all of the run time.  Oh, and the wrap up at the end is COMPLETELY unbelievable, but I was kinda expecting that it was going to end up that way.  The movie digs itself into a PRETTY deep hole considering that they freaking KILLED a guy, and unless we were going for a dark ending there’s not a lot of ways to get out of it other than to just hand wave it away which this movie certainly does.

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“Do you remember when we killed that guy?”     “Uh… I don’t think so.”     “Meh.  Doesn’t matter.”

Now I don’t want to end this on a down note, so I’m gonna mention a few more things that genuinely worked in this movie which can probably be traced back to this being one of the only R-rated comedies directed by a woman.  Sure there are some older films and independent ones like Fast Times at Ridgemont High, But I’m a Cheerleader, and… well basically Penelope Spheeris’s entire career, but very few of the recent female led comedies have had a female perspective behind the camera.  It’s why I compared this to Wonder Woman earlier which similarly doesn’t feel like any other film in its genre for that reason, and I appreciated whenever the film pointedly defied expectations for these kinds of movies.  There’s a moment where the male stripper gets too skeevy and basically gets tossed off by Scarlett Johansson which SHOULDN’T be all that impressive, but I’m struggling to think of a lot of movies where a woman’s boundaries are realistically invaded and  the dude is quickly shut down and framed as being CLEARLY in the wrong.  Now to be clear, there is a scene where one character puts themselves in a sexual situation for reasons other than wanting to have sex which I think falls right on the line of being inappropriate, but even that kind of joke has been done much worse in other movies, though I won’t question anyone who found it to be offensive.  There’s also the great subversion of the Bachelor/Bachelorette party stereotypes that works very well when we cut back to Paul W Downs early in the film and I wish they would have done more with that instead of the sillier stuff the script had him do later on.  Also, and I’m far from an expert on this, but I feel that they did a REALLY solid job of bisexual representation here.  It’s treated without any sort of fanfare or given a real spotlight and is simply allowed to be a part of one of the characters.  Again, I’m not the one you should be turning to when it comes to determining how well bisexuality is represented in something, but it came off as pretty authentic to me which we rarely get in movies period; let alone raunchy comedies.

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No, it’s not with these two.  Then again, I TOTALLY would have bought it if they went down that road…

When reviewing any sort of comedy, there’s always the chance that other people won’t find it nearly as funny as you or will be downright offended by the material, and I’m not here to dissuade anyone who feels it perpetuates negative and harmful stereotypes (particularly in regards to sex workers) or even that the jokes are flat out stupid.  All I can say is that I had a pretty damn good time in this and am happy that it even exists considering how rarely studios give female directors a chance with this kind of material.  Because of that, you MIGHT want to hold out until the film’s home release to see it, but if the trailers made the movie seem right up your alley, you’ll probably have a good time if you check it out.  Just… don’t make a sequel.  I know I say this at the end of pretty much every comedy I see, but it’s still no less true!  COMEDY SEQUELS ARE ALWAYS A BAD IDEA!!

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