“Childhood friends reuniting as adults” is a pretty well-worn genre, particularly since The Big Chill. Another entry into this field comes with this week’s Rough Night, starring Scarlett Johansson, Jillian Bell, Zoe Kravitz, Kate McKinnon and Ilana Glazer. Four of them are long-time friends from college (with the addition of McKinnon’s Pippa) who are getting together for a wild weekend in Miami before Jess (Johansson) gets married and settles down.
Things start off great but take a turn when the stripper they’ve hired for a night’s entertainment is accidentally killed. So they engage in a series of highly-ridiculous antics to not only cover up that death but to keep the party going, determined not to let a little manslaughter stop them from continuing on with the festivities.
The first posters were a collection of character images. Each one shows just the torso of the character, each with the actor’s name at the top and then “is a/the” that leads into the pageant-like sash they wear, each one sporting a different description. So Johansson is “better off wed” to signify she’s the bride-to-be, McKinnon is the “party down under” with a jar of vegemite tucked into a pocket to make sure everyone gets she’s Australian.
Another series of posters was basically the same idea, just with the camera pulled out to actually show the faces and full bodies of the actors.
What I’m guessing is the theatrical poster finally brings all five women together, the whole group looking toward the camera, aghast and worried about the body whose feet appear at the bottom. Only Johansson is big enough to make it above the title and below that we’re told “The hangover will be the least of their problems.” I have to think the use of “The hangover” isn’t accidental but meant to, at some level, invoke the movie of the same name and create a connection in the minds of the audience that similar drunken hijinks will be engaged in here.
Another take on this design arrays the supporting cast around a perplexed-looking Johansson. This one makes it clear it’s “From the writers of Broad City” so you can see where the appeal is going. A final poster puts all the ladies together having a great old time against the neon lights of Miami but asks “What’s your alibi?” which makes it clear there’s something not-right going on.
The first red-band trailer immediately makes it clear that we’re about to embark on a bachelorette weekend with a group of old friends. All of them are reuniting for the first time in a while and we catch up with them. As soon as they’re in Miami the party starts and each one lets loose in her own way. It all culminates back at the house they’re staying in when the stripper shows up. Things get out of hand though and he winds up…dead. They immediately panic and do all the wrong things to deal with their enhanced situation. The rest of the trailer shows them bouncing around town, determined to not let the death ruin their weekend.
It’s pretty funny and it’s great to see Johansson letting loose in a comedy like this. But let’s be honest, Bell and McKinnon are the real stars here, the former for her over-enthusiastic nature and willingness to do all the drugs and the latter simply for the faces she makes in reaction to the events around her.
Another red-band trailer shows the outrageous antics the group gets into while out partying, including drugs and other bad decisions that lead to death the stripper, which leads to them trying to cover up that death and getting into even more trouble.
A green-band trailer starts off with the ladies while they were still in college showing they have a history of crazy partying before catching up with them in present day. After that it’s largely the same beats and jokes we’ve seen before, just without all the cursing and drug use.
Online and Social
This is the first time in a long time I remember an official website throwing up an age-gate, asking you to verify you’re over 17 years of age. After you clear that hurdle the second red-band trailer pops up.
Close that and you’re greeted with images of the five main ladies which, when you click on them, bring up short videos introducing you to the various characters. There are links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles in the upper right. Along the side of the page are prompts to enter a sweeps to win a trip to Miami and to get tickets.
Moving to the content menu across the top of the page, the “Trailer” link once more brings up the second restricted trailer. “About” has a short synopsis of the story. Oddly, the “Gallery” doesn’t show any stills, just some of the various character poster series that were released. Finally, “Cast and Crew” just has a list of the names of those involved.
With the amount of drug usage in particular that’s on display, especially in those short character introduction videos, it’s understandable why that age restriction is on the front page.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
TV spots like this one lay out the premise of a wild bachelorette weekend that takes a dark turn. It plays up the idea that these friends are going all-in on having a lawless party filled with dead bodies and lots of drinking.
Outdoor ads and online ads used various versions of the key art to highlight the five actresses who are starring in the ensemble here. Social media ads took the videos as they were released to drum up awareness and ticket sales.
Media and Publicity
Right before the first trailer debuted the movie got a new title, changing from “Rock That Body” to the current label, seemingly to make it as generic as possible.
A big feature popped about a week before release on director Lucia Aniello, specifically on how she’s the first female director in 20 years to helm an R-rated comedy of any sort. That seems just as notable a milestone as Patty Jenkins’ accomplishment helming Wonder Woman, covered extensively in the last couple weeks. That story covers how she got the story, how she got the movie made and lots more.
With such an A-list cast it was natural, of course, for them to go out and do the press rounds both in print and on TV to talk about the good time they had on the set, the craziness of the story and other related topics.
It’s a lazy journalistic angle to view this through the lens of the male-starring movies that have come before. That hasn’t stopped plenty of people from saying “Oh, it’s a female Hangover” and positioning it as such, of course. It’s just that it does the movie a disservice, particularly given the fact that the director is just as much a groundbreaker here as the story that generated so many headlines in the past month around Wonder Woman.
Which leaves us with the movie itself. It looks funny enough, though I question why it’s necessary to go so hard in the “drug-fueled” paint with a concept like this. The trailers in particular sell a movie that’s one-half “hilarious girl’s night out” and one-half “let’s dispose of the dead guy.” That can lead to a bit of an emotional disconnect in some parts of the campaign, but if you give in and go with it there’s potentially a good time in store here.