I had a chance to see Lucia Aniello’s Rough Night last night and I had a great time at the theater. It’s a fun, inconsequential, bawdy movie in the vein of Broad City (which Aniello also has a big part of), where a group of female friends engage in crazy hijinks and maybe learn something about themselves and their relationships to each other.
I appreciated this profile of Aniello at The Ringer (who, btw, have been killing it with their director profiles recently):
“I don’t think that I’m making strictly political content — it’s comedy first,” she says. “Obviously I’m a feminist and I feel like my voice reflects that and I feel that the things I make reflect that. It’s funny because it’s probably too feminist for some people, and probably not feminist enough for other people, so I just have to be honest and be like, ‘This is what I truly find funny.’”
All that said, I was also stunned to read Walter Chaw’s (spoiler-filled) review of Rough Night, in which he gives the movie zero stars:
Very Bad Things ends with paralysis, death, and half-life; Rough Night ends by excusing everything, making sure everyone is friends and cool and shit, and explaining away why it is that the truly noxious character at the centre of it all is the way she is. Spoiler: it’s because her mother is dying of Alzheimer’s and she’s trying to give her a rosy picture of her…you know what, never mind. Above and beyond any ugliness embedded in the film’s premise and execution, the exploitation of this disease for some sort of moral reclamation is the ugliest. It’s completely unnecessary. It’s noxious.
It’s also what makes Rough Night genuinely terrible rather than just run-of-the-mill unwatchable. Imagine The Hangover if it’s revealed after everything that the Zach Galifianakis man-child miscreant was acting the way he did because he had sick relatives. It’s the kind of thing pictures without any courage do. Rough Night takes a shot at being a Weekend at Bernie’s, but garbage decisions like this align it more closely with Patch Adams.
I obviously don’t agree with Chaw that the film’s problems completely sink it (nor do I think the movie was unfunny; there were many laughs throughout the audience in my screening). But Chaw is right that there is a fundamental conservativism to these Apatow-esque comedies that inhibit them from hitting harder with their messages and becoming legitimate critiques of some of the awful human behavior they traffic in. This definitely describes Rough Night too. But not all movies have to be all things to all people.