New Scarlett Johansson Female Buddy Comedy ‘Rough Night’ Flops. Was It Too Anti-Male?

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By Heat Street Staff | 12:15 pm, June 19, 2017
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Last week people were reckoning that the new raunchy comedy Rough Night would revolutionize Hollywood.

After all the movie, which stars Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell and Zoe Kravitz, is the first R-rated comedy in almost 20 years to be directed by a woman (Lucia Aniello, best known for directing Broad City). So its success counted for a good deal.

But that was then. Rough Night has wound up commercially comatose, taking just $8.1 million from over 3,000 movie theaters over the weekend at the U.S. box office. The movie, about a bachelorette party in Miami that spirals out of control when one of their party accidentally kills a male stripper, limped into eighth place in the US top 10 and was even beaten by the Mandy Moore shark movie 47 Meters Down.

Now that it has flopped, Rough Night‘s lasting legacy will be as a cautionary tale. But the inquest into why it has bombed is only just beginning.

The movie’s official Twitter handle claims “the film critics are saying [Rough Night] is “funnier than The Hangover and Bridesmaids.” There was one critic from Elle who thought that. The movie had just a 50% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and was given a rough ride by film critics.

So the movie was ultimately doomed because it’s fundamentally not funny enough to attract a large audience. For Johansson, just a few months after the flop of Ghost in a Shell, it’s particularly galling.

Rough Night might have been overwhelmingly female-centric but many women made their feelings known on social media about their unease with the movie’s plot line, which involves a male stripper dying in a cocaine-and-booze-fueled accident being played for laughs.

In addition to women being horrified by the fictional fate of a stripper, some movie insiders believe the male comedic audience was alienated by Rough Night‘s relentless ‘made-by-women-for-women’ message.  You would have thought Sony, which released the movie, would have learned its lesson from last year’s Ghostbusters fiasco.

But no. Director Aniello repeatedly spoke about the film as if it were more an exercise in redressing gender inequality than a work of entertainment. She told Vanity Fair: “Our younger selves were told boys are more important, watching mostly movies about men, directed by men, telling men’s stories. I guess I just never got that message.”

While speaking to Business Insider, Aniello commented about the fact she was the first woman to be directing a high-profile R-rated comedy since 1998: “The fact that there’s this additional curse thing that has been broken…I just hope in some small way if this movie is able to pave the way for anybody else to make an R comedy by women for women, then I think it’s done its job.”

Far from ‘doing its job,” Rough Night may have set the celluloid comedy sisterhood movement back several years.