Having recently just seen the female led comedy Rough Night, I came in expecting something similar from Malcolm D. Lee’s Girls Trip. What I got was not only very different, but extremely enjoyable. A departure from Lee’s typically male dominated ensembles, this comedy gold written and starring black women, plays an important role in representation by allowing the target audience to see themselves on screen as simply that: beautiful black women. While the drastic switches from gut-busting comedy to the devastatingly dramatic do not always flow easily, Girls Trip is just too much of a good time to worry about certain faults, as it delivers a delightfully indulgent and entirely laugh out loud message of sisterhood and self-importance.
I completely own the fact that I am not the target audience for this film. Nonetheless, I was still drawn in by the story since it reigns universal. A group of four longtime friends decide to reunite for a weekend of outrageous fun in New Orleans amidst their busy schedules to rekindle their friendship. What girl can’t relate to that? The opening, narrated by our lead Ryan (Regina Hall), seemed to try a little too hard with exposition before abruptly launching into the story, leaving me hard pressed to assimilate myself into the lives of these ladies. And even though we establish at the forefront that Ryan is the leading protagonist, our first glimpse into the present lives of the friends is with Sasha (Queen Latifah) who immediately introduces her own personal conflict for us to deal with. Things pick up shortly, however, in the second scene with Dena, played expertly by Tiffany Haddish, who we will talk about in just a sec. It is clear by scene 2, that outrageous comedy is the secret ingredient to this movie. The looming threat of exposed infidelity slowly drives the plot, though it is not as interesting as seeing the shenanigans that the girls get into over the course of the weekend.
A big topic in Girls Trip is sex and how women feel and talk about it with one another. It is such a refreshing change of pace to see women on screen talk about sex regularly and unabashedly. I would say the friends’ quest for some action drives the plot through more than the intended main conflict. But ultimately, the relationship between the girls is what really brought the story home. These women are working women with bills, families, hopes, and aspirations and we want to see them make it through their trials and tribulations. It makes a great deal of sense that they are in New Orleans specifically for the Essence Festival, an event that celebrates African-American women, because these women need some girlfriend-to-girlfriend TLC to rediscover their worth. The important message of friendship and sisterhood is very clear and inspiring in this film, and while it is specific to black women and their rich culture, it is a message that all women and even men can appreciate.
The cinematography and editing was not a high point of the film, often clunky from new moment to new moment. This was most apparent when switching from a comedic high point and jumping directly to a dramatic moment. It just didn’t flow well and caused me to feel a bit disassociated from the drama, but in no way did it detract from the film as a whole. The most creative usage of cinematography was when the girls hallucinate after drinking an obscene amount of absinth. The typical warped images and extreme close ups were textbook effects but remained familiarly enjoyable.
The acting in this movie, which could have been disastrously overdone was the films leading attribute. Regina Hall as Ryan represented the “everywoman” who aspires to be all things. Her desire and struggle to be perfect and “have it all” is something that is so relatable to many women. You could sense her anxiety and empathize with her fear when she quietly repeated her personal mantra “I am smart, I am beautiful, I am strong”. Usually the comedic force in many of Lee’s films, Hall finds a way to hold a mirror up to ourselves while still giving us plenty to laugh about. Jada Pinkett Smith was very impressive as the meek and prudish Lisa. I’ve only seen her in dramatic roles and I thought she enveloped herself in this role not only emotionally, but physically as well. Everything about her body language was specific and filled with what seemed like years and years of backstory and conditioning. Her spritely and jovial behavior brought her character to life. Tiffany Haddish, as the outlandish Dena, was by far the highlight in the acting category. Haddish had me doubled over in laughter with her sassy delivery and authentic wild child persona. What was most endearing about Dena is while she is the most outgoing of the friends, she is also the most loyal. The comedic chops on this woman are what held the movie together and gave it its flavor. From the moment we meet Dena, the tone is set for exactly how far this movie was willing to go. And while most of the high points of the film, which were streamlined by her ensuing hilarity, would have made a girl like me blush, I think audiences can see Haddish on screen and wish that they all had bit of Dena. A woman who is loud, proud, and completely owns her confidence and sexuality. Haddish makes no apologies in this film, and we should all be glad for it. Queen Latifah as Sasha was slightly disappointing. While all the other girls had such extremes, her storyline dulled in comparison. I found myself unable to care much for her plights, though she seemed necessary to round out the group. I couldn’t help but burst into hysterics, however, while she tried to make love to a standing lamp.
Anyone, especially women, going to see Girls Trip will be pleasantly surprised by the comedic expertise that has started to seem redundant in similar male-dominated comedy films. The take away is real and is so applicable to the current times. As I said before, it is a breath of fresh air, and one that was definitely needed. Hopefully we can begin to see more movies with this essence make its way to the forefront.
|Director:||Malcolm D. Lee|
|Release Date:||July 21 2017|