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‘Rough Night’ tries to bridge gender gap
June 28, 2017

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When four women reunite after 10 years, a popping champagne bottle at an airport signifies hints of uncouth, bawdy, high times forthcoming.

The gal pals arrive facing a variety of life stages, from just taking off to "perfection".

Jess (Scarlett Johansson as a state senate candidate), to a dapper rebooting Blair (Zoe Kravitz), bestie Alice and activist Frankie (Jillian Bell, Illana Glazer), both cruising in neutral. Alice, who has a tendency to cling to the past, has the Miami weekend of booze, buzz and wild casual sex pre-planned. It's upset by the arrival of Pippa (Kate McKinnon), just off an Australian plane, who's presence ignites spontaneous combustion wherever she treads.

"Rough Night" incorporates all the gags and dilemmas from the "Bachelor Party" "Bridesmaids" , "Hangover" string with a generous surrounding of near-the-beach "Weekend at Bernie's" simulation.

"We wanted to make a big, fun comedy, but the thing that we kept coming back to was the idea of making it real, and that meant creating characters that felt like people we've known and friendships we've had," director/co-writer Lucia Aniello said in a press release. "I'm so excited that audiences are responding in (a positive) way, and that people don't just laugh at these yadda-yadda girls, but root for them as if they were their own friends."

Pushing against the "chick flick" grain, the astute director seeks a blend whereby the boys come to laugh at the girls, rather than ogling their chests and hoping for a wardrobe malfunction. Aniello loads more than out of control former roommates pushing edges: The tame (boring) groom's dudes party, a (politely) liberal next door couple, thoughts on friendship, and (best) the twists taking "Rough Night" beyond "Bernie's" and "Very Bad Things."

Prior to the film, our 'she said' critic had a male turn down a trip to this flick ("any film but this one!"). And, as credits rolled, I blurted my inverse "how's the female chemistry" question by unwittingly (hmm...) asking it in a way that had a hidden sexist connotation, strongly implying maybe one of the gals could be dumped - but I overlooked the dudes and their subplots.

Admittedly, our 'she said' identified with the female characters more than I and suggested that each compliments.

My reference speculated whether the quad group would perk greater chemistry as a quartet. Until the twists start looping, there's a mid-point where the "what do we do with the dead male stripper... he's back (again)" schtick softens the comedic steam to sluggish puffs.

McKinnon's character then seems the unwieldy one, but the "Saturday Night Live" alum, famous for sendups of Hillary and Kellyanne, inserts flairs for improv, regurgitating their plight from the brain of a boorish, take charge fish out of water. McKinnon roars unexpected deviations which command tying unmatchable loose components.

Audiences have not flocked to the film suggesting that the female bonding genre despite it's R-rating (and a refreshing lack of Judd Apatow continuous f-words) appears headed into the near extinct romantic comedy realm. The idea that impulsive, drunken women substituting for men may have reached the tolerance level. Yet "Rough Night" has the aforementioned "dudes" subplot.

Scarlett Johansson's Jess is engaged to Paul W. Downs' Peter. Due to her character's success, they have a seesaw relationship where they support each others work and personal endeavors. While Jess parties in Florida, Peter and his friend have a dull wine tasting party, until an abrupt 'check in ' call by Jess goes afoul leading Peter (and his buddies) to suspect she's calling off the nuptials.

Now, it's Downs who's on a rush road trip to Florida (in a diaper) and facing embarrassing off in left field encounters on the journey.

Fusing it all together, now, allows the dealing with friendships subtext to gain stronger significance. As 'she said' noted, there is one or more of these 'girls' in every group. And, guys, would you go after your bride to be, go get drunk and pick up a lady, or spend the honeymoon express funds on tips at a strip bar?

Incidentally, obviously, this is not a Marvel, DC, or Star Wars film, but adheres to the superhero and space tentpole commandment: Thou shalt watch ALL the credits (spoiler). At the preview, 'she said' and I blustered our retorts to each other in an empty auditorium , only to receive a great surprise.

Call it one last belly laugh.

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