ROUGH NIGHT. Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Zoe Kravitz, Jillian Bell, IIana Glazer, and also Paul Downs. Directed by Lucia Aniello. Rated MA 15+ (Strong crude sexual humour, coarse language and drug references). 101 min.
This American movie tells the story of five women who come together at a beach house they rent in Miami after being 10 years as best friends. One of them is about to get married.
The five women (Scarlett Johansson, Australian Kate McKinnon, Zoe Kravitz, Jillian Bell, and IIana Glazer) assemble for a wild bachelorette party. They take drugs, engage in lewd behaviour, taunt each other in rivalry, and generally behave very badly. To get things swinging, they hire a "hot" male stripper for the occasion, and, whilst partying hard, one of them throws the person they think is the stripper against the wall and kills him.
The group is desperate to hide what they have done and resort to drugs to relieve their tension. Finally, they decide to move the body which is against the legal advice that each of them could go to prison for 15 years for doing so. They try to sink him in the ocean, and end up driving through the streets of Miami with the body standing propped up suggestively in the back of their car.
This is a female-centric movie with five actresses working hard to show they can behave in an unseemly way, and they are guided by a woman Director (Lucia Aniello) in her first movie. There are several interpretations one can draw about the overall thrust of the film.
The first interpretation is that its main point is to demonstrate gender equality. If one can behave badly, as males do, then females can do likewise. This point is obvious and always there for noting.
A second interpretation is that the movie is intended to satirise bad male behaviour, as is shown in movies like "The Hangover" (2009), where males partied so hard at a Las Vegas Bachelor party that they woke up after heavy drinking to find that the groom they were there to honour had gone missing. Effective satire is not the main point of this movie.
A third interpretation, which makes the film more problematic, is that the movie is intended to show that females can surpass males in the lewdness of their behaviour. According to this third interpretation, gender rivalry pushes females to demonstrate that they can behave more shamefully than males. It is this interpretation that seems to fit the movie best, and it is one that is consistent with the movie's marketing push. This is a film that tries to show content that is acceptable, when similar content might be unacceptable if the gender roles were reversed.
To the five women, killing a male stripper - even accidentally - might be an awful thing to do, but the movie tries to argue that it is a particularly inventive way of demonstrating good female-bonding. It is the craziness of killing unintentionally that ultimately brings these five women closer together. The film aims to tell us that relationships grow in strength, "where it matters most", despite what has occurred.
Several of the actresses in this movie have made good films. Scarlett Johansson, for instance, took the lead role in "Under The Skin", which was one of the best movies of 2013. In this film, she shows, not very dramatically, that females can more than match men in objectionable behaviour.
The movie is an edgy black comedy that stimulates genuine debate about the complexities of gender differences, and it is an interesting movie for doing that. But its ultimate enjoyment value resides in the discussion of the thoughts that the film engenders provocatively, rather than the quality of what happens on the cinema screen.
Peter W. Sheehan is Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting
Entertainment One Films
Released June 16th., 2017