Girls Trip (2017)

You’ll be glad you came

‘Ladies on the loose’ or ‘women behaving badly’ seem to be making a comeback, the sub-genre having its moment in the sun, again. Back in 2011 Paul Feig’s excellent Bridesmaids redefined this type of entertainer, one that revolves around a bunch of girlfriends getting together for a bit of cheeky ‘girl time.’ Since then, we’ve seen a slew of copycats, each new entry worse than the one that preceded it — think Amy Poehler and Tina Fey’s really fun Sisters (2015), Mila Kunis’ decent-but-not-great Bad Moms (2016) and the recent Scarlett Johansson stinker Rough Night (2017). Yes, this latest girls’ night out romp recycles a heap of hijinks from its ancestors, but this riotous celebration of black womanhood is the shot in the arm the genre needs right now, Girls Trip a crass yet legitimately funny party flick that’s equally warm-hearted and sincere.

Super Fly!

Truth be told, the only reason why Girls Trip is being released here in Australian cinemas is because it performed so well over in the States, as black-centered comedies generally tend to bypass Aussie theaters entirely, Tim Story’s Think Like a Man (2012) being just one example.

In any case, Girls Trip follows a quartet of likable gal pals who call themselves the ‘Flossy Posse,’ long-time friends who’ve become somewhat estranged after finishing college, life getting in the way of their once unbreakable bond — be it careers, other relationships, babies or family time. When author and über-successful self-help entrepreneur Ryan Pierce (Regina Hall) is invited to give a keynote speech at the annual Essence Festival, the wealthy businesswoman decides it’d be a good idea to invite her college buds along so that she can reunite the posse. Enter Sasha Franklin (Queen Latifah), a former journalist-turned flailing gossip blogger who dishes out dirt on celebrities, Lisa Cooper (Jada Pinkett Smith), a conservative nurse and divorced mother of two, and Dina (Tiffany Haddish), the hot-headed, mischief-maker of the group. Ryan also hopes that the trip will help mend a quarrel with Sasha, which started after a joint business venture went south a few years back.

You see, it was this split that began Ryan’s rise to fame, the Oprah-type celebrity having recently published a novel titled You Can Have It All, the book inextricably related to her seemingly perfect marriage to retired football star Stewart (Mike Colter), the pair about to sign a very lucrative television talk show/ book deal. While the girls are more than happy to join Ryan for a weekend of selfies, boozing and debauchery in New Orleans, they’re not willing to sit by idly knowing full well that something ain’t right with Ryan and her outwardly perfect façade.

‘Liquor won’t fix your problems, but it’s worth a shot.’

Things are exposed early on when Sasha happens on some steamy paparazzi shots exposing Stewart’s infidelity — Ryan’s husband, ‘surprise, surprise,’ caught canoodling with a slutty Instagram model named Simone (Deborah Ayorinde). When Ryan’s friends confront her about the situation, she explains that she and Stewart had been trying to work through their rocky relationship for quite some time, and for the sake of their public image. Alas, with the saucy photos still in Sasha’s possession, the money-strapped blogger faces the moral dilemma of whether she should cash in on the story and expose Ryan’s reality to the world or protect her old friend’s privacy.

Written by Kenya Barris, the creator of ABC’s Black-ish (2014) and Tracy Oliver, Barbershop: The Next Cut (2016), Girls Trip is fast paced and fun, filmmakers continually finding new ways to wring out laughs from the audience. A scene that sees Tiffany Haddish’s Dina explain an oral sex practice known as the ‘grapefruit technique’ is further enhanced by a hilarious demonstration, the horn muffin using a grapefruit and a banana as props. Even the famous zip-line sequence that’s plastered all over the film’s advertising — Jada Pinkett Smith getting stuck mid-way then peeing all over the folks in Bourbon Street — is one-upped by a gag that’s wet-your-pants hysterical yet surprisingly poignant; these women mighn’t always get along but they’ve always got each other’s backs. A sausage-tasting skirmish that pits Regina Hall’s Ryan against her Insta-rival Simone feels a bit exaggerated, but most of the humor hits its target.

Believe in your #selfie

Moviemakers eventually dial it down a notch to make way for more sombre moments, the flick exploring everyday concerns, namely the importance of balancing friendships in amongst personal and professional obligations. With that said, Girls Trip does lose steam the further it trots — for one, a girl squad dance-off should’ve probably been left on the cutting room floor. Come to think of it, the entire last act is a smidgen convenient and far-fetched, a series of plot contrivances allowing Ryan to literally ‘have it all.’ I guess the movie had to finish with a Hollywood-style happy ending.

Directed by Malcolm D. Lee, the guy who helmed those Best Man flicks, Girls Trip, once again, proves that Lee knows how to work with an ensemble cast, each of the gals getting their turn in the spotlight. Regina Hall, a regular in Lee’s aforementioned Best Man series, is charismatic and believable as Ryan Pierce, an entertainment big shot trapped in a loveless marriage. Jada Pinkett Smith, Collateral (2004), sells the part of the domesticated wild child looking to get lucky with a well-endowed kid named Malik (Kofi Siriboe), even if her character comes across as too much of a caricature, whilst the always-dependable Queen Latifah, Chicago (2002), is all-round solid.

The honours, however, go to Tiffany Haddish, Keanu (2016), who delivers a star-making performance akin to that of Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids. Similar to McCarthy, Haddish’s antics could be interpreted as being extreme or obnoxious, but the 37-year-old remains committed to the role and steals most of her scenes. Whether she’s smashing a bottle of wine to threaten Ryan’s cheating husband, hiding weed up her ‘booty’ or innocently spiking her friends’ drinks with hallucinogenic absinthe, Haddish’s loose cannon Dina is the breakout comic act of 2017. Likewise, Kate Walsh, Kicking & Screaming (2005), shines as Ryan and Stewart’s quirky agent Liz Davelli, who kinda-sorta thinks she’s part of the posse.

Walk that walk, girlfriend …

Mike Colter from Marvel’s Luke Cage (2016) does the best he can with the thankless role of Stewart, Ryan’s no-good, dirty husband, whereas Larenz Tate, Menace II Society (1993), is charming as Ryan’s old college buddy Julian, a smooth bassist who works for Ne-Yo and still holds a torch for the beautiful Regina Hall. Girls Trip also features a slew of celebrity cameos including Common, Maxwell, Faith Evans and Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs, the latter pulling Dina up on the Superdome stage after she gets his attention by flashing her sparkly, glitter-covered chichis. And, oh, look out for Mike Epps, The Hangover (2009), in a small but memorable role as a dodgy street vendor.

Honest, grounded, well-acted and laugh-out-loud funny, Girls Trip is the African-American equivalent of Bridesmaids, the film capturing the power and closeness of sisterhood, while celebrating it in every way possible. So, pack your bags ladies, you’re gonna want to take this trip — who knows, it might give your friendships a much needed strengthened renewal.

3.5 / 5 – Great

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

Girls Trip is released through Universal Pictures Australia