Rough Night

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Lucia Aniello’s Rough Night (2017) has really taken quite a beating from critics. It isn’t a great movie, but it isn’t bad. I remember seeing this at a theater in West Philadelphia at a matinee where the entire audience kept up a steady stream of chortles and guffaws. Of course Rough Night isn’t the kind of film to challenge aesthetic convention or break new ground. Aniello simply made a film to keep us laughing, and I think she succeeded.

A lot of people have compared Rough Night unfavorably to the slew of films released under the Judd Apatow banner. The popular thinking seems to be that films like Superbad (2007), The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005), and Knocked Up (2007) were ground breaking. But this canon of comedies doesn’t really offer us anything new; it’s just a contemporary repackaging of familiar tropes and narratives. Rough Night, drawing on Bridesmaids (2011) and Weekend At Bernie’s (1989), does exactly the same thing. And what further unifies these assorted films is that, generally speaking, reflexivity and self awareness are not part of the cinematic discourse. So the only apparent reason Rough Night gets a bum rap is that it’s a comedy made by women for women.

There isn’t one slouch among the women involved in Rough Night (from Scarlett Johansson and Lucia Aniello to Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell and Demi Moore). American popular culture, and its mass consciousness, isn’t ready to accept that women are at least equally as funny as men. One would assume that in 2017 a film like Rough Night would have grossed more and had a larger solid fanbase, but that just wasn’t the case.