Jack Benny wrote that Marilyn Monroe had a natural understanding of how to do comedy. She appeared on his TV show in a sketch promoting "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes". Monroe knew how to play a funny scene absolutely straight, gleaning more laughs than if she'd employed a wink and a smile.
Scarlett Johansson grasps that same wisdom. Since Woody Allen's "Scoop" she's demonstrated the same high craft at comedy that she's shown in drama and action roles. She's a treat to watch on the screen in anything.
Here she stands a head and a shoulder above a very well-talented supporting cast of women who know how to milk farce. Unfortunately, their grace and skill get undermined by an idiot-level script written by the director and male lead.
I strongly suspect that the knowledgeable Lucia Aniello secured funding for a female ensemble film on the condition that it deliver a level of raunch equal to or greater than male-oriented crudities. In the days since "Putney Swope" and "Animal House", those have gotten gross and grosser.
When Clare Boothe Luce put the all-female "The Women" on stage, she cleverly gave us peeks at sacred female areas -- the dress shop fitting room, the manicurist's niche, the ladies' health gym, the Reno wives' dude ranch, the posh powder room in a ritz club. Aniello takes us on a spectacular failure of a bachelorette party.
The software guarding these reviews will not permit the rude words that fill the raw dialogue enlivening most of "Rough Night". The adept actresses tackle their tasks with aplomb, delivering truly good performances under the handicap of lackwit lines. That's the glory of the movie.
When Alfred Hitchcock undertook "The Trouble With Harry" he and screenwriter John Michael Hayes slyly contrived a great deal of black comedy based around inappropriate reactions to a fresh cadaver in the woods. Humor about how to dispose of an inconvenient body dates back at least to a very funny sequence in "The Arabian Nights" collection of Middle Eastern tales. The 2000 TV two-parter from Hallmark handles the material adeptly.
That well of mirth went dry by the time of "Rough Night", which offers an accidental corpse for our plucky team to wrangle. Johansson rises to the challenge of appearing interesting in even witless circumstances. Her co-stars second her valiantly.
Demi Moore has proven her acting chops and now can graciously offer herself in cameo roles to help struggling filmmakers. She made a heartfelt appearance in "Margin Call". Here she brings her best to the part of a polymorphous perverse neighbor.
The "Rougher Morning Edition" disc lards on extras giving us more views of the killer cast at work and play. However, watching gifted people attempt to raise roses from horsepuck does not enhance the base material they're struggling with.