Raunchy-R rated- ensemble cast comedies have become a staple in summer cinema since the success of the 2009 hit The Hangover. This film created a ripple effect that lead to the creation of a genre that attracts adults and college students alike. Born out of this genre comes the 2017 all female starring comedy Rough Night. While critics may condemn this comedy-
Side Note: Have you ever wondered why critics rip apart comedies? I think it’s because they want to create the perception that they are intellectuals who think that what’s funny is low brow and that real comedy needs a PhD. I say, if I hear the word “poop” I’m laughing.
I argue that while this film is formulaic, the story of a group of college friends reuniting for a bachelorette party weekend, that ends up in the women hilariously trying to cover up an accidental murder, offers some great laughs for you and your entourage. However, while I may disagree with critic’s taste for comedy, I want to discuss a key point about this film.
This film falls into the trope of all-female media falling into the category of a comedy. With films like Wonder Woman inspiring audiences around the world, and small screen hits like The Handmaid’s Tale giving us an eerily timely story about gender politics, the sad truth is that these examples are merely exceptions. While more media is being made that is rich with diversity and has examples of inclusion, one must be critical of the films being made.
Directed by Lucia Aniello, whose worked on the hit Comedy Central series Broad City, the films stars a group. Jess is running for senate and is the bride-to-be (Scarlett Johansson), Alice is Jess’s first year roommate and the overly excited organizer of the trip and the accidental killer (Jillian Bell), Blair is Frankie’s ex and a soon-to-be divorcee (Zoe Kravitz), Frankie an activist isn’t afraid to speak out on heternomativity (Ilana Glazer), and Aussie abroad friend Pippa (Kate McKinnon). The film follows the basic formula for ensemble comedies: group of friends meet for a retreat, the friends ensue in some fun that soon goes haywire, the issue at hand raises tensions between the friends until they break up, an element arrives to reunite the friends so they can save their butts. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
This is because Rough Night falls into the trope of female oriented media being dismissed as pure comedy. Like The Hangover created a surge in studios making bro-buddy films, Orange is The New Black created a thirst for more resistance like media. Media that challenges stereotypes and shows the strength and beauty of proper diversity.
The film represents the women with traits that feel too familiar, and this is because these traits are clearly derived from female stereotypes. Jess is running for senate, and while she wins in the end, she is portrayed as being too overwhelmed by her campaign. It’s like saying, or showing, that women cannot be in politics because it’s too much. Clearly an outdated and completely absurd ideology, because it grabs back. Alice is portrayed as a woman with low-self-esteem whose confidence relies on being in the loop with her girls. While the sentiment may be noble, I think it comes off as showing that female relationships rely on superficial small talk and social media engagement. We all know girls make the best of friends. Frankie constantly shoots out social justice lines that not only seem forced at times, but again play into the "angry feminist trope."
Media that uses any kind of stereotype can have serious ramifications, and even the slightest moments leave impressions. In the case of Rough Night, this kind of representation cements ideologies that when women are together cat fights and superficial drama follows. While more and more female leads are appearing in film. This cast is primarily still cis-gender straight white women. Unfortunately, this small post cannot do justice to this issue, but I want to say that Rough Night is not all bad.
Now there are more things that I think should be inspected, but I am not trying to condemn this film at all. I am simply interested in saying that this hilarious film, like all films, needs some inspection.
As I said, this film is not all bad. While the plot has been recycled again and again, just look at Pitch Perfect, Best Night Ever, The Heat, Bridesmaids, and more the film does offer some fresh elements. Frankie and Blair's former love affair offers some nice representation with both having queer woman of color and a genuine same sex love that is sincere. I think Pippa is hilarious and she is the outsider that becomes a welcomed member of the group.
Author William Samayoa
Marketer by profession and storyteller by passion. L.A. raised, proud Latino, and pop culture enthusiast.