Lucia Aniello breaks into a male-dominated profession to direct an R-rated comedy, a genre dominated by men. Her new film, Rough Night, is best described as The Hangover meets Weekend At Bernie’s. It may not be something new but it’s new territory for a female director. At first glance, it may seem like just a generic copy of more successful male-oriented R-rated comedies. However, Rough Night surprises with its darkly funny material and subversion of gender stereotypes.
After 10 years of separation, five friends (Scarlett Johansson, Jillian Bell, Zoë Kravitz, Ilana Glazer, Kate McKinnon) get reunited for a bachelorette party in Miami. After a night of alcohol, drugs, and mishaps, this group of friends is about to face their worst nightmare when they accidentally kill their male stripper.
Sex, Drugs, And Murder
Rough Night offers a decent amount of laughs. At first, the jokes feel more strained and forced coming out of our female protagonists. As the movie progresses and its tone get darker, the jokes feel less robotic and have a smooth flow. The dark humor is probably the movie’s best material. The body comedy and the dark jokes are what feel more comfortable throughout the movie. Ultimately, Rough Night picks up after the death of the stripper. It’s only then that movie comes into it’s own and stops being a lesser version of The Hangover.
Not only does the humor benefit from progression but the story is just interesting enough to guide you through some of the rougher parts. Its progression from a more comedic story to a more dramatic story works well. There are some twists and turns that are surprisingly effective and keep you guessing till the end. The various tonal shifts, although sometimes jarring, keep the movie from being predictable and it’s these moments that end up being what makes Rough Night a decent watch.
One Too Many Shots
Unfortunately, Rough Night isn’t as confident like other male-oriented comedies. Its promise to focus on women’s need is diluted when the camera cuts back to Jess’ boyfriend (Paul W. Downs). His story arc was not as funny or as interesting as the women’s story. His scenes become increasingly prominent, just shy from having equal screen time with the women. If only his scenes were equally funny to the main story, it would have worked better. However, most of his scenes were played for cheap laughs.
Cheap laughs aside, Rough Night resembles quite a lot of past movies. It follows the spotlight of The Hangover while taking elements of Weekend at Bernie’s and Very Bad Things without actually being the darkest it could’ve been. This premise is not entirely original and just swapping gender doesn’t make it instantly fresh again. But what makes it fresh is the message it delivers.
Feminine Bachelors vs. Masculine Bachelorettes
What makes Rough Night a smart film is its awareness of gender and gender stereotypes in the comedy genre. Women are often depicted as boy crazy individuals who don’t care about anything else, while men are often depicted as sex and drug addicts doing unbelievably stupid things. Rough Night takes a fresh spin on these gender construct. Its depiction of a bachelor and a bachelorette is completely flipped.
Here, the men are at a classy wine tasting gathering while the women are drinking and doing drugs. Rough Night‘s idea of masculinity and feminity is more complex than that of The Hangover or similar comedies. It’s surprising to see such a diverse understanding of masculinity in what is supposed to be a female-focused movie. It doesn’t fall into the hypermasculine men trope we tend to see depicted in these kind of movies.
However, in Rough Night, feminity takes center stage and it’s also equally refreshing to see such depiction of women. At first, these women are defined by tropes. There is the activist, the jealous friend, the rich, the Australian and the bride to be. However, this is just a facade playing into the genre’s depiction of women over decades. As the movie plays along, each woman is quickly given more depth than expected. The jealous friend is given a rather quick yet touching backstory and there are two queer woman that are not defined by their sexuality.
Eventually, the focus of movie shifts to their relationship to one another and offers a warm message on sisterhood. Sticking through rough times is the ultimate message of the film and it’s surprisingly effective coming from what seemed to be stereotypical women at the beginning. It’s nice to see women not defined by their relationship to men but by their relationship to each other.
As a whole, Rough Night offers a decent amount of laughs, an interesting enough story and an awareness of gender tropes in comedies. Although it doesn’t always give you what it promises and it resembles other comedy movies, the message is a breath of fresh air. If you’re looking for that girl’s night out or just a plain funny comedy, Rough Night is a pill that isn’t too hard to swallow. It presents a solid directorial debut from Lucia Aniello and her future work may reinvent the one-dimensional comedy genre.
Did you like Rough Night? Do you think Lucia Aniello has a bright future as a director?
Rough Night was released in the US on June 16 and August 25 in the UK. Find all the other release dates here.