Friday, June 16, 2017

Kate McKinnon Steals 'Rough Night'

This review originally appeared on

When Bridesmaids came out in 2011 it was a turning point for female-led comedies. It was written by women, it centered on women, and most importantly, it made money, proving teenage boys are not the only people paying money to go to the movies.

For better or worse, it has since spawned a plethora of similar comedies, some of them straight-up copycats (I appreciate that Bachelorette's not even trying to pretend it wasn't, with a title that is easily confused with its inspiration), and some just starring Amy Schumer.

Now we have Rough Night, a thoroughly adult comedy about five college friends reuniting 10 years after graduation for a bachelorette weekend in Miami. The bride-to-be is Jess (Scarlett Johansson), a candidate for state senator who is running against someone whose "accidental" dick pics keep pushing him ahead in the polls. She's set to marry Peter (Paul W. Downs, who co-wrote the script with director Lucia Aniello), the kind of nice guy whose bachelor party consists of wine and cheese tasting.

The woman behind the hen party is Jess's possessive friend Alice (Jillian Bell), who, if she could, would probably not have invited anyone else. Alas, she is forced to include career activist Frankie (Broad City's Ilana Glazer, whom I am now convinced can only play herself), Frankie's former girlfriend, the rich and newly-divorced mom Blair (Zoë Kravitz), and Pippa (Kate McKinnon), Jess's Australian friend, whom none of the other girls has ever met. I'm not sure if Rebel Wilson was offered the part of Pippa and turned it down, or if McKinnon just felt like doing an Australian accent. Whatever the case, she does a terrible version of one, which is to say it's great because it's so ridiculous.

The gals shack up in a beachfront, glass-walled home owned by one of Jess's political donors, next door to two swingers played by Demi Moore and Ty Burrell, a couple that is not subtle about their hopes for an eventual orgy involving all of them. Once out on the town, Frankie easily scores some coke, and they convince the senatorial hopeful to partake. Her opponent is winning with dick pics, what's she got to lose?

As tends to be the case when booze and coke are concerned, some bad decisions are made, which include ordering a male stripper/hooker off of Craigslist, not vetting him at all, and then accidentally killing him.

If this movie were about a bachelor party that ended with the accidental death of a female stripper, it would... probably make millions, who are we kidding?* Yes, some people would be rightfully upset about the death of a woman being the center of a comedy, but let's not pretend the thing wouldn't make money.

So I'm not going to wring my hands over Rough Night's central premise, especially because it's pretty damn obvious from the start that the "stripper" isn't actually a stripper, and is very likely a bad guy. The majority of the movie centers on the women trying to figure out what to do, coming to the terrible decision to get rid of the body, and then trying to do that to various levels of comedic effect. At the same time Jess's fiancé, convinced she wants to call off the wedding, decides to drive down to Miami, which results in one of the film's funniest scenes, involving an adult diaper, a semi-truck, and window washing.

Back when Bridesmaids came out, I gave it a favorable review, but noted that I found the casual moments between friends Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph much funnier than the scenes involving, say, public shitting. Rough Night isn't lacking in comedy — Kate McKinnon steals every second of her screen time, Ilana Glazer may not branch out much from her Broad City persona, but luckily, it's a funny persona, and Jillian Bell tackles the physical comedy she's relegated to with aplomb — but not for one moment did I ever believe these women would have been friends in college, let alone ten years later. It all felt as genuine as a friendship depicted in your average man-baby comedy starring Adam Sandler. But ladies, shouldn't we do better than that?

*Yes, I am familiar with Very Bad Things. No, that film is not an apt comparison, as it is far darker than this one — barely a comedy, at all — and features the death of a woman who is paid to have sex, which most strippers will tell you they most decidedly are not.

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