Rough Night review: dead on arrival

This ladies night out comedy plays like a feminised version of the appalling Very Bad Things

Rough Night
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Director: Lucia Aniello
Cert: 16
Genre: Comedy
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer, Zoë Kravitz, Paul W. Downs, Ty Burrell, Demi Moore
Running Time: 1 hr 41 mins

Jess (Scarlett Johansson), a pants-suited Hillary-in-Waiting, is running for state senate and preparing for her wedding, when she is joined by her grown-apart former college chums for a bachelorette party in Miami.

The friends are standard genre issue, the genre in question being Bad Studio Comedy. Jillian Bell is the Larger Sex-Starved one: thou shalt know her by her penis accessories and unfunny twerking. Zoë Kravitz is the shallow, status obsessed, white-acting, token-black one. Ilana Glazer is the lesbian political activist, so she sniffs her own armpits and scoffs a lot.

They are joined by an erratically accented Kate McKinnon: her defining quirk is Australianism. Seconds into her initial appearance, she pulls a jar of Vegemite from her handbag. If you're thinking that's some lazy and shallow characterisation, then you haven't met the swingers next door (Ty Burrell and Demi Moore) or the predatory gays who pop up later to hinder Jess' fiancé. Oh, and as we're in Miami, Gloria Estefan booms over every exterior shot.

Long story short: ladies night is interrupted when the randy, bigger friend accidentally kills the hooker-stripper they hired. Oops.


Hands up who wants to see a feminised version of the appallingly misogynistic Very Bad Things? Unsurprisingly, the rank inappropriateness of the conceit – hilarious dead sex worker – isn't made any more palatable by the gender flip or by the screenplay's third act finagling.

Tonally, the screenplay jumps from heart-to-heart confessional to supposed high jinx to gross out to plain irrationality. Every sensible suggestion – call an ambulance, maybe? – is rejected out of hand. The corpse capering isn't fit to sit on a shelf beside Weekend at Bernies 2, let alone Weekend at Bernies. The laugh count is zero.

Come back, Girls Trip, all is forgiven. This is mirthless enough to leave one pining for the comparative levity of Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal.

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic