By: Arlene Allen
I confess – I was hesitant going into seeing Girls Trip. I was concerned it was going to be another generic comedy rehash of Bridesmaids or the more recent Rough Night. It seems sometimes like Hollywood will take a successful idea or formula and use it over and over until it’s been drained of its freshness. I’m happy to report that Girls Trip is absolutely none of the above! It’s fresh, it’s smart, it’s genuinely funny and surprisingly, extremely moving. There were more than a few tears leaking out of eyes that evening.
The premise sounds simple enough – four college friends (Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith and Tiffany Haddish) reunite to travel to the Annual Essence Festival in New Orleans in order to celebrate the success of Ryan (Hall), a celebrity with a football player hunk of a husband, successful author, cooking connoisseur. “You Can Have It All!” Ryan proclaims and, of course, on the surface it looks like all four ladies do have it all.
Sasha (Latifah) has multiple journalism degrees, has written for Time Magazine and now runs a celebrity gossip web page a la TMZ. Lisa (Smith) is a nurse and a single mother of two beautiful children while Dina (Haddish) is still 100% pure Dina, no filter, honest to a fault and living life to its absolute fullest. Along with Ryan, the girls were known as “The Flossy Posse.” Time, distance and unspoken conflict change everything, of course, and a year slips by and then two and then five.
But The Flossy Posse is reunited to head to The Big Easy and it doesn’t take long for the veneers of “perfect lives” start to crack. Lisa has gone from “freaknik to neatnik,” Sasha’s business is failing and Ryan’s husband is a scoundrel. Lisa, with her bluntness and zest, is the glue that binds the women together.
New Orleans, the city itself, has plans of its own to work magic on the ladies. At a P. Diddy concert Ryan hooks up with an old friend, bass player Julian (sweetly played by Larenz Tate). Lisa finds a hunk of her own (the seriously gorgeous Vikram played by Shrey Neil). Dina spends her energy in bar fights and dancing onstage with Diddy himself. Sasha has a close encounter with Iyanla Vanzant (played by herself). Things are loosening up and lightening up!
I may have made the film seem a little serious, which it is, but it is also pure comedy platinum. Dina, with no filter and no holding back, is a scream. Her attitude, her swagger and with her creative potty mouth she is gem. Both sides of Lisa elicit laughs; whether she’s spraying hand sanitizer everywhere or trying to “cantaloupe” her boyfriend in one of the most fall down, laugh until you cry sequences ever. The dance showdown between The Flossy Posse and Ryan’s romantic rival is both hysterical and empowering. The moments while they are trapped in a flea bag motel and hit on by a skeezy drunk are just priceless and the absinthe-induced extravaganza deserves an award; I laughed until I absolutely could not breathe.
This is original, fresh and genuinely funny without relying far too much on scatological and sophomoric humor. In addition, the film addresses and explores serious issues. It’s not heavy-handed, but the messages about settling for far less than one should (Lisa), living off of the ruins of others’ lives (Sasha), faking it and putting up with a deceitful, cheating husband in order to maintain the façade of perfect (Ryan) and the power and protectiveness of friendship and sisterhood (Dina) are always percolating under the surface. There are also subtle stingers about cultural appropriation that behoove us white people to take note of. Friendship and sisterhood are the ribbons that tie this lovely package together.
Girls Trip is an absolutely feel good movie, droll, clever and uplifting. It is a genre breaker and it should be the “women’s bonding comedy” all others have to look up to. Surveying the audience after the film ended it was obvious that the majority of viewers felt the same – young and old, female and male, black and white; people exited the movie with a smile on their faces and a tear or two in their eyes.
The film was directed by Malcolm D. Lee, who has given us The Best Man, Undercover Brother and Soul Men. He deftly brought out the very best from his cast, who are all extraordinarily talented to begin with. These are not cardboard archetypes or stereotypes; these are very real women and men we can all connect with on one level or another. TV writer Kenya Barris (“Black-ish,” “Barbershop: The Next Cut”) led the creative team of Karen McCullah (Legally Blonde), Tracy Oliver (“Barbershop: The Next Cut”) and Erica Rivinoja (Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs) to deliver a pitch perfect script.
Final Analysis: I do not hesitate to say that this is “the” comedy movie of the summer and it should not be missed. 10/10 A+