In her feature directorial debut, Lucia Aniello, best known for her writing and directing work on the creative and consistently hilarious Broad City, presents what may well be the most ridiculous bachelorette party ever. Rough Night follows a group of friends played by Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Ilana Glazer, Zoë Kravitz, and Jillian Bell, as their Miami bacchanal takes an absurdist, morbid turn involving the accidental death of a male stripper. The film is the type of broad comedy usually filled with bros, and it’s refreshing to watch a group of charismatic women behaving badly. Aniello, who also wrote the screenplay with boyfriend and frequent collaborator Paul Downs, directs the film with a playful energy, creating a proudly silly and at times subversive summer comedy. We spoke to the writer-director about her influences, television versus film, and playing with genre conventions.
Were there any favorite comedies that you looked to when making this film?
I was definitely a late-’90s comedy dork, so I love Daria and The State. I was always obsessed with SNL – Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, that whole world was a huge inspiration for me. I basically just googled Amy Poehler’s name and that was how I ended up at Upright Citizen’s Brigade. Those were some pretty big inspirations for me growing up. My favorite movie is probably Back to the Future Part II. I also love Mean Girls and Clueless, and I’ve always loved stoner comedies like Half Baked. And Kevin Smith’s stuff, like Mallrats. I always liked lo-fi stuff that felt really real. I was always excited to watch characters that felt like I was friends with them or wanted to be friends with them. I felt like it was a gateway to hanging out with people who were cooler than me. I grew up in a pretty cool area in small town Western Massachusetts, and grew up with the same 40 people for basically my whole life – which I love – but I liked being exposed to different stuff. I’d get into bands and go to a lot of shows, and that was always an artistic outlet. And I loved music videos. I was always obsessed with them. I would record my favorites on VHS. I didn’t exactly know what all that meant for me but I always knew I was generally attracted to comedy and cool people.
What were some of the music videos you were into?
I loved the whole oeuvre of the No Doubt era, I loved The Smashing Pumpkins, there was a great video, [Cibo Matto’s] “Sugar Water,” where the girls were backwards the whole time. That was my general era. When I was 17 and 18 I had a local radio show.
What are some of the differences you’ve found between working in television and film?
It’s weird, on a production standpoint there really isn’t a huge difference. I had a similar amount of time per page for this movie, because we had five women in a room for a lot of the movie, which meant a lot of coverage. It ended up being kind of similar pace-wise to television. I would say the thing that was different was the storytelling. Obviously, you’re telling a bigger story and need adequate character development and story turns. That was my intention. I didn’t want people to sit in the theater and feel like they were watching a long episode of television. I wanted each act to feel really distinct and I wanted it to feel exciting and create a lot of investment in the characters. I wanted it to stand alone as something people would be excited enough to drive to the movie theater and see.
How did you navigate dealing with clichés in this genre of raunchy comedy? When the trailer came out some people seemed frustrated with the “killing a stripper” premise, but then the movie ends up turning that all on its head.