Not unlike superhero blockbusters, R-rated comedies have been dominated by men. And when a female-centered comedy does get through the cracks (“Bridesmaids,” “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising,” “Bad Moms”), they are generally directed by men.
That’s what makes Sony’s hard-R comedy “Rough Night” (in theaters on Friday) such a standout. And it’s just a lot of fun.
Directed and cowritten by Lucia Aniello (a writer and director on “Broad City”), this comedy has all the great gross-out humor that you’ll find in a party-like-we-did-back-in-the-day movie but with a unique, socially aware twist.
Scarlett Johansson, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer, and Zoë Kravitz play best friends from college who meet up in Miami for a wild bachelorette weekend. Johansson plays Jess, the bride, who has gotten into politics since leaving college. Bell is Alice, a teacher who longs for the college days. Glazer is Frankie, who spends her days fighting any cause that will keep her from getting a real job. And Kravitz plays Blair, who is dealing with a divorce and a custody battle over her child. Rounding out the group is Kate McKinnon, who plays Pippa, an Australian Jess became best friends with when she traveled abroad.
The movie gets right into the fun hijinks with the introduction of the characters and connecting in Miami, which leads to some bumps of cocaine and lots of partying. But things get out of hand when a man comes to the door of their rented condo. Presumably the stripper they ordered, he dies mid-performance.
This is where the real fun begins, with a “Weekend at Bernie’s” scenario playing out. But instead of coming up with an unbelievable premise for how to dispose of the body — like dressing the guy in dildo sunglasses and driving him around South Beach (okay, that does happen) — Aniello tries to come up with challenges that the girls would have to go through in real life to ditch the body.
Meanwhile, Jess’s fiancé Peter (Paul Downs, also of “Broad City” fame) is worried sick about her while at his bachelor party after he believes her frantic call means she’s having cold feet about marrying him. This leads him to interrupt the mellow wine-tasting portion of his party and decide to pull a “sad Astronaut.” Which means strapping on an adult diaper, taking some uppers, and driving nonstop from South Carolina to Miami to win her back (imitating the lengths former astronaut Lisa Nowak famously took when attempting to kidnap her boyfriend and the woman he was cheating with in 2007).
There’s a lot of “The Hangover” vibe in the movie, but there are also smart callouts to female struggles: Jess is losing her race for office because people can’t get enough of her male opponent’s dick pics, Frankie cites real police cases in which women are the victims to explain why they can’t turn themselves in.
And the casting is perfect. Johansson dives right into the raunchy material and owns it. Bell, who’s often the scene-stealer in movies, gets a little more character development than usual.
Aniello and Downs, who wrote the script between seasons of “Broad City,” give the movie an incredibly fun (and woke) update to the party-hard movies of the past.