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Hangover with a Heart? Rough Night is Raw, Rowdy, Relational

<i>Hangover</i> with a Heart? <i>Rough Night</i> is Raw, Rowdy, Relational

"Underneath this wild, R-rated comedy," says star Scarlett Johansson, "is a movie with a very warm heart about friendship." True, but that sweet friendship story is buried beneath a mountain of highly sexual content. If you can get past that, Rough Night could, I suppose, be a fun night at the movies. 3 out of 5.


Ten years after their party-hardy college days, five friends—played by Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer, and Zoë Kravitz—reunite for a bachelorette weekend in Miami. It's all fun and games (and drugs and drinking) until they accidentally kill a male stripper. As the panicked friends try to cover up what they've done the situation goes from bad to worse, until it takes a turn that reminds them why they were friends in the first place.

What Works?

Despite the crudity, much of the movie is quite funny. Jess (Johansson) reminded me of some of Cary Grant's iconic characters—think Arsenic and Old Lace, but saucier. The physical comedy, especially when it involves the dead guy (Ryan Cooper), is often hilarious. The friends play off each other well. Pippa (McKinnon) is especially entertaining; she has an impressive range of goofy expressions and uses them to good effect. The contrast between the girls' wild weekend and the groom's elegant bachelor party is good for a few laughs, too.

The "warm heart" of the story makes some valid points about friendships, taking people for granted, and what we choose to reveal (or not) to the ones we care about. It also serves as a reminder that we don't always know what's going on behind someone’s façade.

What Doesn't?

Rough Night is the first big-studio R-rated comedy about women to be directed by a woman in nearly 20 years, which may explain the equal-opportunity aspect of the sexual content. Regardless, it's too much for my tastes, especially the anything-goes attitudes ("It's not cheating if it's with a prostitute," one character opines) and scenes depicting intercourse. The casual attitude toward drug use is also annoying, especially from Jess, who should know better than to do something that stupid in public while running for office. Alice (Bell) was written as a clingy, needy, annoying character—and boy, was she. I understand that was part of the story, but she was so over-the-top irritating it was hard to see why it took so long for anyone to call her on it. Maybe they had to sober up first?

Christian Worldview Elements / Spiritual Themes

It could be said the moral of the story is "be sure your sins will find you out," but it really is more about relationships. True friendships require a measure of honesty and transparency; by the end of the film the party girls have figured that out and learned to offer grace to each other.

CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers)

  • MPAA Rating: R for crude sexual content, language throughout, drug use and brief bloody images 
  • Language/Profanity: Every common profanity makes multiple appearances, with top honors going to the f-bomb, which is variously used as an exclamation, invitation, and exhortation. Jesus' name is taken in vain once or twice.
  • Sexuality/Nudity: At a rough estimate, 80 percent of the dialogue is directly or indirectly about sex in various forms. There's partial nudity, a lesbian couple, a heterosexual couple on the prowl for a third party to join them—we're treated to a semi-discreet view of their threesome in progress—a male stripper, a woman faking intercourse with a dead man, men propositioning each other, and on and on.
  • Violence/Frightening/Intense: There is a death that involves a fair amount of blood, and our heroines are in danger of going to jail—and worse—but it's difficult to take it any of it too seriously. This is first and foremost a comedy, so even when characters are in imminent danger it's impossible to take it seriously.
  • Drugs/Alcohol: Oh yes… SO much. Characters snort coke, smoke weed, take sketchy "prescription" drugs, facilitate meth buys, and drink gallons of alcohol.

The Bottom Line

RECOMMENDED FOR: Folks who like comedy of the wink-wink, nudge-nudge kind; Saturday Night Live fans; chicks who like funny flicks about friends (and aren't easily offended).

NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: Anyone put off by explicit sexual humor or stories built around ridiculous situations (even if they're funny).

Rough Night, directed by Lucia Aniello, opened in theaters June 16, 2017; available for home viewing September 5, 2017. It runs 101 minutes and stars Scarlett Johansson, Zoë Kravitz, Kate McKinnon, Demi Moore, Ilana Glazer and Jillian Bell. Watch the trailer for Rough Night here.

Susan Ellingburg spends most days helping to create amazing live events and most nights at the movies, at rehearsals, or performing with vocal ensembles in the Dallas area. This leaves very little time for cleaning house. A natural-born Texan, Susan loves all things British, Sunday afternoon naps, cozy mysteries, traveling with friends, and cooking like a Food Network star (minus the camera crew).

Publication date: June 15, 2017

Image courtesy: ©SonyPictures