Reviews for the Easily Distracted

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
Rough Night

Title: Rough Night

Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote:

Bart: Oooh, my head.
Lisa: The remorse of the sugar junkie.
Bart: I don't remember *anything*.
Lisa: Not even...this?

Brief Plot Synopsis: Slain stripper spoils sexy shenanigans.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant to the Film: Two baculums (bacula?) out of five.

Tagline: "The best nights never go as planned."

Better Tagline: "Weekend at Bridesmaids"

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Longtime friends Jess (Scarlett Johansson), Alice (Jillian Bell), Blair (Zoë Kravitz), Frankie (Ilana Glazer) and Aussie newcomer Pippa (Kate McKinnon) have gathered for Jess's bachelorette party weekend in Miami. "Tragically," at the end of a cocaine- and booze-fueled first night, a stripper is dead, and Jess — in the middle of a heated campaign for state Senate — and her friends (briefly) grapple with whether to inform the authorities or dispose of the body themselves.

"Critical" Analysis: As recent movies like Bridesmaids and Bad Moms have tried to teach us, women are capable of being just as grotesque and boorish as men. It's not true, but that hasn't stopped studios from cashing in while convincing us otherwise.

Then again, Rough Night's most obvious cinematic analog is 1998's Very Bad Things, Peter Berg's directorial debut (and possibly the movie that convinced him to focus his efforts on jingoistic Mark Wahlberg flicks). There are similarities: A hooker dies during a bachelor/bachelorette party in both, sure, but where VBT was deliberately mean-spirited (spoiler warning: Two-thirds of the cast dies), Rough Night can't decide between what kind of comedy it wants to be: "black" or "female empowerment." And if you're asking, "Why not both?" it's because they're two tastes that don't necessarily go together.

The darker comedy elements are certainly present (the movie involves attempting to dump a corpse, after all), but don't figure as prominently as you'd think. The entire concept is played for laughs, and even though the reveal of the victim's true identity sort of/kind of lets everyone involved off the hook, those assembled don't waste a lot of time fretting over the implications of their actions.

Aside: If Rough Night accomplishes anything, it's demonstrating that while women may not be as gross as men, they're just as dumb. One of the cornerstones of this kind of comedy is realistic characters — folks enough like us that we can comprehend their actions, if not actually see ourselves doing the same thing. Here, you have Jess and company, who consistently opt for the worst option available. This might resonate if you're fond of extended warranties, but otherwise it gets old quick.

Rough Night is directed by Lucia Aniello, who also co-wrote the script and works with Glazer on Broad City. That connection is apparent in the references to Daniel Holtzclaw and various discussions between the characters about their shared experiences/disappointments as modern women. What's disappointing is how easily and how often Aniello and co-writer Paul W. Downs (who also plays Jess's fiancé) go back to well-worn dick jokes.

Meaning the jokes are well-worn, not the...never mind.

The cast does their best, it should be said. Johansson is clearly relieved she's not laboring under sci-fi or superhero genre conventions. Kravitz and Bell offer the most fleshed-out performances, while Glazer is essentially playing a muted version of her Broad City character. Ty Burrell and Demi Moore(!) also show up to creep us out as the group's swinging neighbors.

But it's McKinnon who is the most consistently hilarious. Even if it seems like her character is Australian solely for the purpose of allowing the SNL-er to try another accent, she throws herself completely into every scene, and her facial expressions alone are almost admission-price-worthy.

Almost. Rough Night is the latest in the "women behaving badly" subgenre, but aside from McKinnon and some residual "woke"-ness, there's little to distinguish it from its Y-chromosome counterparts.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar