Girls Trip

Girls Trip

Girls Trip is a brash, gross, lewd, sexually forthright and occasionally violent film. It’s also absolutely wonderful.

Girls Trip

4 / 5

Girls Trip is a brash, gross, lewd, sexually forthright and occasionally violent film. It’s also absolutely wonderful. Bolstered by excellent performances, particularly by relative newcomer Tiffany Haddish in a star-making turn, Girls Night succeeds because of the appeal of the film’s central foursome and their warm, believable friendship. That, and some incredibly original dick jokes; you’ll never look at a grapefruit the same way again.

The ladies at the center of Girls Trip are the “Flossy Posse,” which consists of successful self-help author Ryan (Regina Hall), gossip website guru Sasha (Queen Latifah), nurse and mother-of-two Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith) and bad girl Dina (Haddish). Though they made the transition from best college friends to best adult friends, the Flossy Posse haven’t seen each in five years when Ryan is chosen as the keynote speaker at the annual Essence Festival in New Orleans. Eager to reconnect with her pals, Ryan invites them along.

If Girls Trip were simply a ladies’ version of The Hangover then hilarity would ensue and that would be that. But Girls Trip is both a celebration of friendship and of African American womanhood, and as such it is a deeper, kinder and more nuanced experience than the Hangover films as well as lady-laughers like Bridesmaids and The Heat. Director Malcolm D. Lee proved with his The Best Man films that he knows how to portray friendship, and he continues that here. Ryan and Sasha’s relationship is crumbling due to an aborted business deal, overworked Lisa hasn’t had sex in years, and Dina is prone to violent outbursts, one of which gets the posse kicked out of their luxury accommodation. And none of those are even the film’s central drama, which involves Ryan’s strained relationship with her retired NFL-star husband, Stewart (Mike Colter of “Luke Cage”), though that plotline unfortunately plays out predictably.

Outside of Ryan and Stewart’s friction, the men are simply here to look good, a great reversal from the majority of mainstream comedies. Colter, Larenz Tate and Kofi Siriboe are present for sex appeal alone, allowing the audience to focus on the ladies and their relationships. The women, for their part, take this opportunity and run with it. Hall is excellent in the central role, playing Ryan’s high-strung business side and hair-down party girl side with equal tenacity, and its wonderful to see the veteran actress in a real starring role. Pinkett Smith plays against type as the buttoned up Lisa, and her desperate need to get some gives her some of the film’s most well-earned laughs. Haddish is the real breakout, however, playing the “wild” friend with even more comic abandon than Zach Galifianakis in The Hangover and Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids. What makes Haddish so effective is that she balances Dina’s outlandish behavior with genuine warmth. Dina never comes across as a caricature. Instead, even after jaw-dropping antics, her most notable characteristic is that she’s a fiercely loyal friend.

Though Queen Latifah is her reliable, imminently watchable self here, the character of Sasha is one of the Girls Trip’s rare misses. Latifah is given very few chances to stand out, which is a big missed opportunity considering the talents of the Grammy-winning, Oscar-nominated performer.

Aside from that problem and the predictability of the film’s dramatic arc, Girls Trip gets nearly everything right. Highlights include a smart script by Kenya Barris (“Black-ish”) and Tracy Oliver, and excellent use of it central location. Girls Trip was filmed on-location during the Essence Festival in New Orleans, which provides the opportunity for an amazing number of effective celebrity cameos, including quick appearances by Ava DuVernay, Mariah Carey and others. Several celebrities have larger roles, nearly all of which are used to great effect. “Top Chef” and “The Chew” star Carla Hall hosts a wonderfully awkward cooking demonstration; Sean “Diddy” Combs improvised a scene during his actual Essence Fest performance, bringing Haddish’s Dina onstage and dancing with her; William Levy shows up as Sasha’s illicit, hallucinated fantasy; and Ne-Yo performs alongside Tate’s Julian at New Orleans’ famous House of Blues.

But these cameos are just icing on the cake. Come for the girl power, stay for the belly laughs, callbacks to previous films from the stars’ careers, a kick-ass dance-off and many other surprises that are best discovered spoiler-free. Though Girls Trip is unapologetically a film for African American women, it’s an experience that anyone can enjoy, provided they have a high tolerance for laughs.

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