The Scarlett Johansson-led Rough Night sees a bachelorette night go horribly wrong after five friends accidentally kill a stripper.
Wild bachelor nights have been a staple of mainstream comedy since before even the Hangover films were released. The basic premise of Rough Night is especially familiar as it’s essentially a gender-swapped Very Bad Things (1998). Although the broad strokes of the plot are far from original, the film manages to find fresh ground to tread in the name of entertainment.
The most interesting thing about the film is the gender swapping itself. Not only does it put the bride (Scarlet Johansson) in the position of what would traditionally be the male lead of the film, it also puts her fiancé (Paul W. Downs) in the position of the typical female lead. While the women are out partying, the men are at a quaint wine tasting night, having conversations that one would typically see being had by the female supporting cast in a film. This is what makes Rough Night so interesting. By reversing the gender roles, it highlights how ridiculous the common stereotypes we see in cinema are. As we see a group of five adult men drink wine and lament about their relationship troubles, we realise how ridiculous it seems, and, by extension, how ridiculous it is that this is often the only way we see women portrayed.
Aside from the humour drawn from the gender swap, the film is enjoyable overall. That being said, there is a big obstacle many audience members will face before they can have a good time during Rough Night. That obstacle is the film’s absurdity. Although it is seemingly rooted in some kind of realism to begin with, the film reaches ludicrous levels; with capers and side plots that couldn’t possibly take place in a real world setting. But once this has been accepted, Rough Night becomes a solid comedy. Not every joke lands, but the ones that do are witty and original. Additionally, the cast (made up by some of the best comedic actors working today) lend sincerity and personality to their characters; each of them truly embodying the people they are playing.
Rough Night also shines in a few other ways. The standout scene is definitely the death of the stripper the bachelorettes hire. While it has a few comedic elements, for the most part it’s a very unsettling and darkly dramatic scene; the pop music in the background provides an eerie contrast, which adds to the unease experienced by both the characters and the audience.
Meanwhile, the film’s biggest weakness is probably the beginning of the third act. It follows the typical formula that most comedies do; fun and games for the first hour and emotional development and sincere character moments in the last thirty minutes. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, in the case of Rough Night the tone change is quite a shock to the system. The earnest emotional beats, although well earned, are a little too sober and serious compared to what came before and what will come after.
But despite the shaky third act, the film succeeds overall at providing a fresh and entertaining comedy, that embraces the tropes of the genre and turns them on their heads to give audiences a new twist on something familiar.
The film was originally entitled Rock That Body, before being renamed Rough Night.