2017 ended up being the year in which we had two big cinema releases focusing on women getting together and letting their hair down. But where Girls Trip may have tried to play the premise with a surprising emphasis on some more dramatic moments, Rough Night is content to just go for the laughs, with fleeting emotional moments doled out as and when the character development needs to be prodded to the next point.
Scarlett Johansson plays Jess, a young woman about to get married. She's also hoping to become an elected official, although this is in doubt as too many members of the public don't find her that appealing. She is behind the polls to a man who accidentally sent out a dick pic. He apologised, but only while sending out another dick pic that was obviously intended to go out the first time around. So it's no wonder that Jess is looking forward to some fun with her friends, played by Jillian Bell, Zoe Kravitz, Ilana Glazer, and Kate McKinnon (playing an Australian who is unfamiliar with the rest of the group). Unfortunately, it doesn't take that long for someone to go and accidentally kill the male stripper who was hired as entertainment. Which means the fun plans have to be altered to body disposal plans. And hilarity ensues. Perhaps.
With a plot that seems to mix Bridesmaids and Very Bad Things (without the spiralling chain of deaths), Rough Night isn't going to claim any points for originality. Everyone involved seems to know this, with every main sequence played out almost exactly as you'd expect, but that's not a bad thing when the aim is always to simply amuse and entertain viewers.
Director Lucia Aniello, who co-wrote the screenplay with Paul W. Downs (also starring as Johansson's husband-to-be), makes her feature debut, and shows that she's a safe pair of hands for this kind of material. Keeping the whole thing at just about 100 minutes, Aniello and Downs know just how to pitch the elements that could seem distasteful in clumsier hands (the main death, a plot point that hinges on someone getting themselves involved with a pair of swingers, even the ongoing strand that shows Downs driving across the country, wired on energy drinks and wearing an adult diaper, as he frets that his fiance may no longer love him), and they give
Glazer and Kravitz may be the weakest of the leads, although it's safe to say that they're not given very much to work with at all, but that doesn't matter when you have Bell and McKinnon bickering at one another fine style, and Johansson trying to remain calm and level-headed throughout the escalating madness. Downs is also very good in his scenes, given some fun support from Bo Burnham in a cameo role, and Ty Burrell and Demi Moore have fun in the couple of scenes they're given.
It's not great, it's entirely predictable (seriously, if you can't see how the third act is going to pan out then I assume you have avoided every mainstream cinema release since the mid-1970s), but it still manages to be funny enough to make it a decent prospect to accompany some snacks and the beverage of your choice.
Rough Night is available to purchase here.
Or here, in the land of stars and stripes.