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Scarlett Johansson Scores Big Laughs With Sex-Comedy ROUGH NIGHT (Review)

Scarlett Johansson Scores Big Laughs With Sex-Comedy ROUGH NIGHT (Review)

The bachelorette party is a precious time in the lives of women where they are encouraged to let their hair down, bedeck themselves in pink sashes and penis-themed accessories and party like there’s no tomorrow with its cruel hangovers, cutting regrets, or the occasional uncooperative corpses in need of hiding. Following in the tradition of Bridesmaids and Bachelorette, the Scarlett Johansson-fronted Rough Night spikes this classic scenario for female-bonding and mayhem with a deliciously dark splash of Weekend At Bernie‘s lunacy.

Penned by Broad City writers Lucia Aniello and Paul W. Downs, Rough Night centers on the stressful and sidesplitting reunion of four college friends whose lives have led them down very different paths. Jess (Johansson) is on the verge of marrying the handsome and loving Peter (Downs pulling double-duty), but her personal life has been shunted to the side by her run for political office. Fearing their losing touch, her college roommate Alice (22 Jump Street standout Jillian Bell) plans a madcap trip to Miami complete with a beach house, hard drugs, and a foam party for Jess’s bachelorette. Along for the ride are ex-girlfriends Frankie (Ilana Glazer) and Blair (Zoë Kravitz), the former an unemployed activist with a wrap sheet and rants at the ready, the latter a posh and prim businesswoman with a pristine white suit and a bitter in-the-works divorce from a sneering husband. And then there’s Pippa, (Kate McKinnon) a chipper Australian from Jess’s study abroad days, whose warmth and up-for-anything attitude does nothing to thaw Alice’s cold shoulder and icy possessiveness over the bestie she feels slipping away.

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But this is not a weekend where any of the above hope to address brewing tensions or lingering resentments. It’s supposed to be about sun, fun, and selfies. And naturally they need to hire a stripper. But when a dirty-talking, jorts-sporting hunk turns up on their doorstep, things go from Magic Mike to My Favorite Murder in the blink of one masterfully mascaraed eyelash. With the dude accidentally dead, these flustered friends band together in a series of increasingly silly and salacious shenanigans to save themselves, each other, and ultimately their friendship. This wild ride folds in a pair of overly amorous neighbors (Ty Burrell and Demi Moore), some light necrophilia, a squeal-inducing jetski stunt, and a jaw-dropping climax alive with excitement and laughs. Meanwhile, the bachelor party B-plot follows Paul and his buddies (comedians like Eric Andre, Bo Burnham, and Hasan Minhaj) from a sophisticated wine tasting to a “sad astronaut” road trip, which sets up a string out outlandish gags all its own.

Rough Night not only marks writer/TV director Aniello’s filmmaking debut, but also the first time in 20 years a woman has helmed a R-rated studio comedy. And she kills it, layering in joke on joke on joke, both verbal and visual. So even if one here or there doesn’t land, there’s still scads of laughs in every scene. More impressive, she and Downs crafted a sex comedy that is brazenly sex positive, refusing to shame the kinks and behaviors often treated as gross-out gags in the subgenre. For instance, when fiancé Paul gets propositioned at a gas stop by two different men looking to be on either end of oral sex, he doesn’t react with disgust or gay panic, but instead becomes a cheerful matchmaker in a scene that’s brief, sweet, and uniquely funny because it subverts our expectations of such a seedy setup.

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The story itself sometimes gets a bit bogged down in its premise, with the business of hiding a body occasionally overshadowing Rough Night’s greatest asset: its cast. Johansson’s never been much for cracking jokes, aside from the dry wit of her Black Widow. But as the straight(wo)man Jess, she deftly sets up Bell to wins guffaws with high-energy deliveries and bold physical comedy. Similarly, Kravitz and Glazer are frequently paired, playing Odd Couple foils sparking with sexual tension. Glazer scores giggles throughout with a character very like her Broad City persona, a spirited tomboy outrageously devoid of boundaries and gleefully reactionary. But Kravitz nails her naughty moment in the spotlight with a sex scene that manages to be creepy, comedic, and oddly arousing all at once. For her part, McKinnon slathers on silliness with a joyful riff on the dumb blonde stereotype, working in some shrewd self-awareness. This quirky quintet has a thrilling chemistry that not only brings Aniello and Downs’ sharp and subversive script to life, but also injects every frame with some bit of comedy business that keeps the giggles coming.

Though a bit wonky in the middle, Rough Night is an explosively funny, wonderfully wild, yet surprisingly smart sex-comedy that makes it perfect pick for date night or a girls night out.

4-burritos

Kristy Puchko is a freelance entertainment reporter and film critic. You can find more of her reviews hereFollow her on Twitter! 

 

 

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