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Rough Night – Movie Review

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Rough Night – Movie Review

Rating: B- (Okay)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Sony Pictures

Rough Night is the sort of comedy that doesn’t attempt for any sort of realism and that’s okay. It’s an absurd concept, which director Lucia Aniello and her co-writer Paul W. Downs takes to all sorts of extremes. For the most part, there are laughs to be gained from the interactions of these life-long friends and this crazy situation. However, the film occasionally sputters when it drives to its conclusion. There are successfully funny scenes, but also parts where the jokes don’t quite hit in a satisfying way. There are multiple character arcs being told at once and the pacing does get a bit askew. Rough Night is a light affair, for the most part.

After a spotty opening at a frat party and the various character introductions, the film starts to pick up when Kate McKinnon enters the picture. The five lead actresses are funny, but McKinnon steals the show from her co-stars quite easily. Putting on an Australian accent, McKinnon plays up the foreigner on American shores with sheer determination. She gets the funniest lines the second she shows up and takes offense at being called a kiwi. The other four have their own personality quirks with Scarlett Johansson’s Jess serving as the straight woman. Downs has his own arc as Jess’s fiancé Peter, which occasionally interrupts the narrative. The most laughs gained here is how Aniello plays up the contrast between Jess’s group and Peter’s buddies.

Rough Night definitely comes across as a comedy that was created in the editing room. Certain lines feel like the actors were given free reign to improvise, especially Ilana Glazer, who has previously worked with Aniello on the television series Broad City. Some of these lines produce laughs, while others don’t. That can apply to many scenes in the film. Some scenes register. Others sort of sputter along as we await the punchline. The funniest moments, aside from McKinnon’s antics, mostly involve trying to move the dead body the women find themselves dealing with. Aniello doesn’t flinch in showing the blood and their desperation in trying to hide him.

The script attempts to build an emotional character arc between Jess and Jillian Bell’s obsessive Alice. This is the least interesting part of the story and seems like it was added to present a plotline beyond the dead body. The leads never move beyond simple archetypes, although that is acceptable in a wacky comedy like this one. However, not every comedy should feel compelled to add a sentimental element. Ty Burrell and Demi Moore’s next-door neighbours feel superfluous to the plot, but their presence is nonetheless appreciated. The most satisfying story decision comes after the credits, when everyone has already left, a lesson that superhero movies aren’t the only films worth sticking until the end for.

Rough Night has its fair share of successful jokes and these are certainly talented actresses giving the roles their all. Lucia Aniello also shows a ton of promise as a feature director with her first outing here. One just wishes the comedy had more punch and more consistency. The screenplay is almost a loose framework for the leads to go nuts. This film is also further proof that Kate McKinnon is a national treasure. There is a reason she has risen to be the MVP of Saturday Night Live and more comedies would be helped by her presence. Rough Night certainly is.


Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison