The “party movie” has become quite a Hollywood cliché ever since “The Hangover” showed how much money studios could make off of them. Studios can fill them with stars and over the top moments without costing as much to make as an action film. Below average movies like “Office Christmas Party” and “The Hangover” sequels have dampened expectations for the subgenre, but the recently released film “Rough Night” may have given the genre a small lifeline.
My biggest issue with movies whose main plot point is the act of partying is that they often try to do far too much. Everything feels so over the top that it becomes overwhelming, which takes away from the punchline of each joke because every joke feels like it’s competing with the previous one. “Rough Night” did a great job of not succumbing to this problem.
Scarlett Johansson (“Captain America: Civil War”) plays Jess, the protagonist. Jess’s friend Alice (Jillian Bell, “Fist Fight”) throws a bachelorette party in Miami for Jess who will soon be marrying Peter (Paul W. Downs, “Broad City”). Once Jess and Alice land in Miami, they are joined by Jess’s other friends Blair (Zoe Kravitz, “Mad Max: Fury Road”), Frankie (Ilana Glazer, “Broad City”) and Pippa (Kate McKinnon, “Ghostbusters”). All of the female cast fit their roles well, but it’s McKinnon who really steals the show. McKinnon does a great job of embodying the perfect amount of weirdness. Pippa’s quirkiness is different enough so that the other characters’ reactions to her illicit laughter from the audience, but she isn’t so quirky that every joke becomes a hit or miss.
The first night of the bachelorette weekend is started at a club and follows the stereotypical way to start a party movie. Everyone is progressively getting more drunk, and the characters become more outlandish. Once they return to the beautiful home they’re borrowing for the weekend, they let in someone whom they think is the male stripper they ordered. He turns out not to be said stripper, and everything takes a turn for the worse.
Almost the entirety of the film after the accident takes place at the house. Whereas other party movies choose to move around a city, “Rough Night” chooses to keep to only a few settings. Because of this, it becomes easier to develop each individual character and their relationships with everyone else. The developing relationships make the characters more accessible for the audience.
While Jess and friends try to solve their predicament, Peter and his friends have their bachelor party. His “party” hilariously foils Jess’s and involves wine tasting and board games. The ensemble of Peter’s friends includes an impressive cast of Bo Burnham (“The Big Sick”), Eric Andre (“The Eric Andre Show”), Hasan Minhaj (“The Daily Show”) and Karan Soni (“Deadpool”). The periodic switches to scenes with these actors help give the film balance.
“Rough Night” is not without flaws. Although there are distinct differences between it and other party movies, it still follows some clichés of the genre. You’ve heard some of the jokes before, and its overall plot structure is familiar. You’re forced to suspend disbelief a little too much as the plot thickens. However, what forced me into enjoying this film was that it doesn’t try to be anything it’s not. It’s perfectly comfortable fitting into the mold set by its predecessors of the genre while adding some differences. It’s the perfect kind of movie for a date night or an end to a sunday evening. It won’t blow one away, but it’s not a bad way to spend an hour and a half.