Back in 2011, BRIDESMAIDS blew the roof off studios’ expectations of what female-driven raunchcoms were capable of doing: making bank and entertaining a shockingly underserved demographic. BAD MOMS did it again last Summer with its leggy box office take, spurring a sequel no one predicted. Director Lucia Aniello’s ROUGH NIGHT (originally titled ROCK THAT BODY) is this year’s uproarious, enlightened, absurdly funny flick perfect for GNO’s everywhere. It mixes up a libation of female friendships, healthy masculinity, sex-positive sentiments, and subversive humor – then chases it with a shot of heart to balance out the dick jokes and debauchery. It’s easy to get drunk in love with it – so long as you don’t let any hangover symptoms get to you before the buzz wears off.
College roommates and one-time best friends Jess (Scarlett Johannson), Alice (Jillian Bell), Frankie (Ilana Glazer) and Blair (Zoë Kravitz) haven’t been together in ten years and are overdue to make up for some lost time. What better excuse than a wild and crazy bachelorette weekend to celebrate Jess and fiancé Peter’s (Paul W. Downs) impending nuptials? Along with Jess’ Aussie friend Pippa (Kate McKinnon), the “5th Floor Wallace Girls” settle into a rented Miami Beach manse for a little “R&R,” in this case “raunch” and “rough” partying. Beginning innocently with some booze, weed and low-end Class-A drug use (cocaine), their weekend changes for the worse when the stripper (Ryan Cooper) arrives. Their party leads to his accidental death, and from there, tomfoolery involving a pair of skeezy swinging neighbors (Ty Burrell and Demi Moore), an astronaut diaper, and some stolen diamonds ensues.
Aniello and Downs’ Black-Listed script has terrific, punchy one-liners, set-ups and pay-offs. The ladies’ drug-fueled logic is irreverent enough to carry the subversive hilarity. Even though the resolutions to their arcs are a tad soft (stay to the very end to find out crucial information), each of these character’s stakes are, for the most part, well-defined: Jess can’t risk scandal because she’s running for Senate; Blair is in the middle of a contentious custody battle; Frankie disobeyed the law; Alice is so desperate for friendship that she over-orchestrates situations; positive Pippa’s just along for the ride.
Yes, there’s obvious comedy in seeing these capable women rendered totally incapable, however, much of the magic comes from the actresses’ insanely potent chemistry. While their comedic timing is on point, each gives some great ensemble work, standing out, but also knowing when to blend into the group dynamic. The material provides each of them moments to shine. Bell, the obvious MVP in any film, is given the most of the heavy lifting for the humor and the heart. She’s a large part of what makes this movie work so well because she’s so darn endearing, witty and genuinely hilarious. Johannson’s paranoid blathering is funny, but she’s utilized more often as the straight-woman to Bell’s raucous lines. She handles this task with aplomb. McKinnon also helps shoulder the weight with Bell as the funny-woman. She’s good for a few pratfalls like falling off a jet-ski and grappling with a stray dog. Glazer, who’s worked with Aniello on BROAD CITY, also brings bombastic, manic absurdity – but wisely knows when to let Bell and McKinnon lead. Kravitz plays the comedy straight-faced, but with a seductive wink. It also helps that Aniello and editor Craig Alpert crisply cut their hijinks to a snappy pace, never lingering too long and cutting away at the precisely perfect millisecond.
That said, it’s not without its problems. There are a few tonal fluctuations from which the script has to re-steady itself. The initial shock of the stripper’s accidental death is a bit ham-handed. A modicum of modulation is vital in that sequence, because as is, it ping-pongs back and forth from extreme highs and lows. Downs, while showing off strong physical comedy chops, gets too much screen-time, defeating his character’s original purpose – which seems to be a sly spin on the thankless trope of the “fiancé left behind.” He almost winds up getting equal time as the ladies. That’s great for equality, but doesn’t quite work from a storytelling perspective. Structurally speaking, things get a bit sloppy, especially because the mounting suspense of getting caught never reaches its peak. The shenanigans of hiding the body wear a tad thin as they aren’t developed to their full potential. The specter of predictability also looms when it’s the convenient time for the girls’ inner group conflict to arise. It’s plopped in haphazardly, despite plodding hints towards the big blow up being peppered throughout.
Though you might have a couple regrets in the morning, ROUGH NIGHT is good for some easy laughs.
ROUGH NIGHT opens on June 16.