It’s hard to decide what to make of Rough Night. It’s certainly dark and takes an unexpected turn fairly quickly and while the film has a handful of chuckle-worthy moments, it isn’t all that funny because a lot of the comedic timing is off and the dialogue and the situation the friends find themselves in doesn’t inspire much laughter. The ending saves everyone from any real consequences and feels off when compared to the rest of the movie. Rough Night may have started off on the right foot, but it quickly unravels before it can truly right itself.
Jess (Scarlett Johansson) is a busy woman. Between running for office and preparing for her wedding to Peter (Paul W. Downs), her life hasn’t afforded her much time to catch up with her best friends. Namely, Alice (Jillian Bell), who feels highly possessive of Jess and has planned a getaway down to the hour. All of Jess’ college friends (including Zoe Kravitz, Kate McKinnon, and Ilana Glazer) fly her to Miami for her bachelorette party, but things spiral out of control after they accidentally kill a stripper (Ryan Cooper) and are forced to make tough decisions about how to go about the situation.
In many ways, Rough Night is… a bit rough around the edges (it had to be said). At the heart of the movie are these deep-rooted issues that the women have with themselves and each other, but they’re only addressed in spurts in between all of the action. Why is Alice so mean, aggressive, and insensitive to McKinnon’s Pippa? Why is Jess distant from Alice? There are a lot of truth bombs dropped later on and the film would have benefited more if it had focused more on these aspects, as they are the most genuine in the movie.
With that said, Rough Night has moments of clarity, where it’s easy to see what this film could have been. Other moments, however, are deeply contrived (and concerning), with their existence only meant to drive the plot. The murder, though an accident, puts a damper on things, making it hard to find humor in anything that happens afterward. The film also moves slow enough that it calls into question the characters’ choices, actions, and level of privilege afforded to them in certain instances.
McKinnon, out of the group, gets in a few laughs because her comedic timing is on point. But there is unfortunately not enough to go on and the film fluctuates between wanting to be a saga of friendship while dealing with a gory murder, and it ultimately fails at balancing both. Not only that, but when the friendship stuff does comes around, it feels a bit empty and lacks any real heart because it never deemed to focus on these aspects prior to getting into the thick of the plot.
Rough Night is a bit hard to sit through and a comedy that sadly doesn’t conjure up enough laughs to make it worthwhile or memorable. Its dark turn of events transforms the film into something else entirely and due to its intense focus on the group of friends coming up with ways to manage the situation, neglects the exploration of female friendship that should have been at the core of the film.