The tone is what’s most disconcerting about Rough Night. Broad City works in political feints and nods amongst its wackiness, but it never stops dead in its tracks to lecture the viewer about some real-world event. Glazer’s character does this repeatedly, telling horrific stories to shut down a course of possible action. She doesn’t relay these anecdotes in the use of dark comedy; it’s conveyed in an informative fashion. Why would anyone bring up the Oklahoma City serial rapist convicted of using his power as a police officer to assault women in the same film that contains Kate McKinnon getting flung off of a jetski that she runs aground on a beach? How much fetid air does the cop anecdote invite over a film, and how much does it have to clear before the characters can start making jokes again?
It’s a recognizable theme that people would formerly good friends would fall away from each other over time, but that can happen through inertia instead of force. It’s never sold that these people enjoy each other’s company, even in the flashback scenes to happier college days. Why would anyone want to spend time with Frankie, the poseur activist, who primarily uses her knowledge of injustice to guilt other people? Alice’s neediness is insufferable, as is Blair’s materialism, and Jess is merely the straight woman for people to flatly bounce jokes off of. Flaws are welcome, but they need to be buttressed by chemistry within the group, and the women don’t really have it. A synchronized dance they do together is acinematic and clumsy, and not in a fun way. Bell and McKinnon get some good pratfalls in, but between the five of them, who’ve I’ve greatly enjoyed in other things, the comedic output is minimal. They manage to get upstaged by Jess’ fiancé, played by Downs. Holding a low-key and nerdy bachelor party concurrently with the women, his character of Peter gets goaded to greater and greater heights of absurdity by his friends. The requisite slo-mo glamour walk into a club by the women does nothing but tick a box; the slo-mo sequence of the men buying adult diapers for a nonstop car ride is the kind of nonsense I was hoping for more of.
Rough Night is a film that should’ve worked based on its pedigree and the notable cast assembled for its creation, but as a debut from Aniello, this is inconsistent at best. Broad City began as the brainchild of Glazer and partner Abbi Jacobson, and while Aniello may have cut her teeth with them, she hasn’t figured out how to sustain a heightened state. Maybe it’s difficult to do so for longer than 22 minutes, but then again, Girls Night is a thing that exists in the world. C-