If there’s something 2011’s Bridesmaids proved is that gross out comedy can be done just as well starring women. It was refreshing, hilarious and bittersweet that made it somewhat a response to The Hangover. It’s something important in comedies (especially R rated) that while it ought to serve a substantial laughter hit rate, it also needs to sell a good deal of poignancy, something for the audience to root for in its protagonists beyond them being just likable.
Unlike this years Snatched or The House, Girls Trip succeeds in its balance of bold and profane comedy and drama that’s both earned and makes the characters all the more endearing. The screening I went to was packed and it made the experience all the more exciting. Mostly of women of course, the reception from them was giddy and consistently approvable. The Big Sick stands out as 2017’s most smartest and multifaceted comedy, Girls Trip strives to be the most poignant and envelope pushing amongst the bunch.
We’re introduced to our primary protagonist and narrator, Regina Hall’s Ryan Pierce; a thriving, self-help author who’s been invited to the Essence Music Festival by an owner of a high end company to forge a deal with her. She uses this opportunity in order to reunite with her ‘sisters’ as it’s been too long since they kicked it. She’s the more career driven of the group.
We see Jada Pinkett Smith’s Lisa Cooper, the mother of the bunch who’s divorced with 2 children. She’s the most guarded and apprehensive, so much so that she brings a couch cushion with her on flights and wardrobe that spells “NEAT, TOO NEAT”.
Queen Latifah’s Sasha Franklin is the sassy gossip blogger that would fit quite snugly in somewhere like TMZ. She’s the opportunistic of the bunch and clings onto any news that’s juicy, even if it compromises those close to her. Somewhat understandable considering she’s late on her bills and needs something worthwhile to avoid eviction.
And then there’s Dina (weirdly we don’t know her surname, hmm?) played by an electric Tiffany Haddish who is the most unpredictable and feral of the group. She says exactly what’s on her mind and it’s only her girls that keeps her grounded.
All four are the Flossy Posse, they’re the people who make you feel at home no matter where you are, the baddest chicks in the game. They’re strong, powerful, beautiful and whose sisterhood is complimented by a chemistry so infectious that even the shenanigans that border on believability, their support and trust in one another is enough to stop you from wincing.
Producer Will Packer describes Girls Trip as an in your face, provocative comedy that dispels the misconception that women can’t partake in gross out comedy, more so he believes women can do it better than men.
The red band trailer didn’t really sell it to me, it was only until the positive notice it received that it peaked my interest. The premise alone doesn’t exactly speak originality, but it’s the movie’s sense of sentimentality and humanity that helps Girls Trip to rise above other rated R fare within recent memory.
The set pieces are crazy and intense at times, showing these women at their worst behaviour as they get ‘white girl wasted’. One in particular that involves zip lines is particularly memorable if a little over the top. There’s another that involves mirages that has their sense of reality completely warped that makes for hilarious and somewhat shocking results.
There’s a who’s who set of cameos that all felt organic because it was actually filmed in the backdrop of the festival, from Diddy, Mase, Common, Estelle and Mariah Carey.
The supporting players are excellent too, Larenz Tate’s Julian Stevens is a musician who marks somewhat of a resemblance to Ne-Yo minus the impersonation. He injects just the right amount of modesty and cool that arouses an interest in Ryan as they both seem mutually attracted to one another. Kate Walsh’s Elizabeth Davelli is Ryan’s slightly zany but dependable agent who time and time again tries to appropriate black culture that has Ryan giving her a good talking to. She’s still a likable presence who’s also quite sweet too.
But it’s the four leads that we’re here for and boy do they deliver. Regina Hall showcases dramatic range that I’ve never seen of her before. Her Ryan’s internal struggle is the most fleshed out as a sub plot involving her unfaithful husband (Mike Coulter from Luke Cage) risks everything she’s been working for in her career and endangers the unity of her pals.
Jada Pinkett Smith and Queen Latifah haven’t been seen on screen together since 1996’s Set It Off and they’re wonderful here. Smith especially relishes in a role that has her pretty much going all the way that felt gleeful. It’s Tiffany Haddish however that runs away with the movie. Her ad-libbing as an established comedian compliments her characters unpredictability. Her Dina’s dresses are loud, she’s a potty mouth but she swears and stands by her women no matter what.
There’s something refreshing about seeing four African American women pull out all the stops and embark on a wild, frantic get together that manages more often than not to offset the empowerment and well realized black womanhood the movie presents. In its opening weekend, Girls Trip grossed 31.2 million which is director Malcolm D Lee’s best in his career since 2013’s The Best Man Holiday.
If there were to be a sequel, (which going from its current box office success could be a possibility) a little more subtlety wouldn’t be terrible. It’d be nice for the comedy aspect to be used sparingly this time as although we get the sense of what each characters motivations are, it’d be nice to see them fleshed out a little more as much of the complexity is from Ryan. For now, I applaud Girls Trip for proving not only being a companion to that of Bridesmaids in that woman are as welcome to gross out material as men are, but also continuing the current wave of successful cinema of black culture such as Moonlight, Hidden Figures and Fences.