rough night

Aspiring state senator Jess (Scarlett Johansson) agrees to join a handful of her old college friends for one last decadent blast in Miami before tying the knot. The challenge will be to get through the debauchery of the bachelorette blowout planned by old pal Alice (Jillian Bell) without tarnishing her public image in advance of the vote. Some tension between the chubby Alice and Jess’s new Australian buddy Pippa (Kate McKinnon) notwithstanding, the getaway seems to be going well enough until the accidental death of a stripper (Ryan Cooper), which has the women scrambling to dispose of the body before their lives – and, of course, Jess’s electoral prospects – are ruined forever. Rough Night is not exactly bad in the way that being bent over a toilet vomiting is bad, for example; but it is rather bad in the sense that the feeling of having squandered an evening is arguably worse.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

3 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Rough Night is:

6. Green, with Al Gore receiving an endorsement.

5. Pro-gay, with Ilana Glazer appearing as token lesbian buddy Frankie. A black transvestite DJ also contributes to the movie’s festive atmosphere.

4. Activism-ambivalent. Frankie participates in a protest of government surveillance, but her idealism is characterized as, at best, a side-effect of the idleness of the unemployed. Hers is a loser’s pastime, a dismissive assessment reinforced when she later announces her resolution to take a “protest dump”.

3. Pro-miscegenation – and, honestly, it’s the rare Hollywood product these days that doesn’t fall into this category in one way or another. This time, it’s mystery meat lesbos.

2. Feminist/pro-slut, with Alice looking forward to “swimmin’ in dick”. Alice’s assortment of sex novelties – penis glasses and the like – is supposed to be funny, but the whole hedonistic ethos unintentionally bores and comes across as stale in this film, which surely represents peak slut and the high-water mark for blasé depravity in western civilization. Blair (Zoe Kravitz) experiences a revelatory orgasm when, as part of a plan to steal a surveillance video, she participates in a threesome with swinger Demi Moore and her husband. The consequences of promiscuity are, moreover, trivialized when one of Blair’s friends reassures her, “Whatever. We all have HPV.” Anyone, the screenplay suggests, who has had sex after 1991 has probably contracted HPV – so what’s the point of being careful, right? The stripper dies immediately after having called Jess a slut, the viewer having the impression that his death is a form of instant karma.

1.Pro-drug. In a flashback sequence to Jess’s college days, she wears a costume referencing marijuana culture. Frankie, complimented on her scent, replies that she has a pound of weed in her bra. Elsewhere, the movie promotes abuse of prescription drugs like the tranquilizer Xanax (“Oh, God, that was good”). Perhaps most disturbingly, Rough Night joins the ranks of Ted, Trainwreck, White Girl, and Office Christmas Party in rehabilitating recreational cocaine use. Coke, in Rough Night, facilitates the bonding of a girls’ night out: “It would mean so much to me if we could do a little bit of cocaine together,” Alice pleads. The filmmakers could point to the fact that Alice is under the influence of cocaine when she accidentally kills the stripper – but her sexual recklessness turns out to have been serendipitous when the stripper is revealed to have been a dangerous criminal.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

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