Sex, Drugs and Hangovers: Partying on Film

WITH Christmas fast-approaching, many people will have office parties – and subsequent hangovers – to look forward to.

As most of us know all too well, modern partying can be a raucous and messy affair. Usually fuelled by self-doubt liberating substances, such nights out can go from one unruly moment to another, racking up a multitude of regrets (many of which are now logged on camera phones and shared for the world to see on social media) to rue in the morning.

Rough Nightavailable on DVD and Blu-ray from December 26 – is one of many films to bring this party culture to the big-screen.

Starring Scarlett Johansson and Jillian Bell, the film follows a group of reunited college friends who head to Miami for a wild hen party weekend. With alcohol and cocaine in liberal supply, the night takes a rather ‘rough’ turn for the worse when one of the girls accidently kills a stripper.

As the stripper’s bloody body lays on the floor, the women continue to make a series of ill-advised – yet morbidly funny – decisions. Like hiding the body on a sex swing or taking it out into the ocean only for it to wash back on shore moments later.

Rough Night takes drunken party antics to a whole new hazardous level. Yet it is not the first film to find comedy in such a disastrous pre-wedding booze-up. Todd Phillips’ 2009 film The Hangover won a large audience for its amnesic approach to a stag-do in the party capital of the world, Las Vegas.


Phil (Bradley Cooper), Alan (Zach Galifianakis) and Stu (Ed Helms) wake after a night partying to discover their friend – and groom to be – is missing. With no recollection of the night before, the group stumble around Vegas looking for clues and falling into deeper trouble.

In essence, The Hangover takes the familiar feeling (at least to inebriated party-goers) of ‘what the hell did I do last night?’ and stretches it out with typical American intemperance. Tigers, strippers and Mike Tyson all feature in this circus of a comedy – led by the socially inept ringmaster Alan.

The Hangover and Rough Night are cousins of a longer held party tradition in American cinema – the college flick. John Landis’ 1978 drama-comedy, Animal House, kick-started the sub-genre in distinctive and memorable fashion – toga parties and all.

The imprint of Animal House’s frat mayhem can be seen on films such as Bachelor Party (1984), American Pie (1999), Old School (2003), Superbad (2007) and Project X (2012). But the trouble for many of these films is finding a connection with the audience beyond the lowbrow humour that is expected from drunken teens and young adults (or grown men in Old School’s case).

Richard Linklater’s highly-quotable Dazed and Confused (1993) expertly showed how this balance can be found with a more realist and relatable approach. It is a formula Linklater replicated 23 years later in his equally enjoyable spiritual college sequel of Dazed and Confused titled Everybody Wants Some!

Likewise, Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers (2012) showed how partying can make for challenging and stylish cinema. He took Disney stars such as Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez and threw them into a neon-soaked nightmare of pleasure-hungry indulgence, Girls Gone Wild like partying and lustful Grand Theft Auto violence. From this subversive blend, Korine created a deceptively brilliant and layered piece of filmmaking.

Julia Ducournau’s cannibalistic horror, Raw (2017), also brought cinematic style to the party. With the help of a dance instructor, the French director choreographed a visceral college party scene in which Justine (Garance Marillier) bounces off the sweaty, out-of-control bodies surrounding her.

It is a scene that feels reminiscent of the euphoric nightclub dancing seen in Sebastian Schipper’s remarkable one-take thriller Victoria (2015). Schipper, just like Ducournau and Darren Aronofsky in Black Swan (2010), does a masterful job of transporting us (sitting comfortably in our cinemas seats) onto the same wavelength as these ecstatic party goers. We can feel the reverberating beat of the music, the strobe lights, the sweat, smoke, the liberation and confusion of bodies.

It feels anarchic, animalistic and of the moment – just how all good parties should be. Party, party, party.


Leave a Reply