Movie Review – Girls Trip
It’s this year’s Bridesmaids (2011). It’s just as funny, if not funnier. It also features just as good, if not better performances from its four main actresses. It’s absolutely hilarious. It’s a hoot and a holler. It’s best to see it in a crowded theater. It stands as the best comedy of the year so far. It might even be more tremendous than Bridesmaids because while that film by Paul Feig was a great exploration of female friendship, it was still within the framework of the tradition of heterosexual marriage, and was restricted by the conventions of that tradition. This film doesn’t have those conventions and thus isn’t restricted. The women here are therefore free or freer. Written by Kenya Barris (Black-ish) and Tracy Oliver (Barbershop: The Next Cut), this movie goes beyond what even the blockbuster Wonder Woman did in depicting and championing the freedom and empowerment of females to come together and overcome anything.
A month ago, Rough Night tried to be this year’s Bridesmaids but couldn’t quite clear that bar. That movie was bogged down with its plot and premise, as well as diversions to male characters one didn’t care about. It couldn’t quite balance its tone and story and, as a result, the female characters were short-changed. This film, directed by Malcolm D. Lee (Barbershop: The Next Cut and The Best Man), never short-changes its female characters. It never gets bogged down with its plot and balances it all with great aplomb.
In a lot of ways, this movie is built around the Essence Music Festival, which was the actual setting of the production. The Essence Music Festival began in 1995. It’s named in honor of Essence magazine, and it’s a three-day celebration of African-American culture, and mostly African-American women. It’s mainly a series of concerts and panel discussions. Instead of trying to recreate that festival in New Orleans, Lee decided to invade the actual 2016 festival. Lee captures documentary footage of the festival, which he incorporates in his narrative. He even has moments where he throws his characters into the festival and has them interact with actual people and talent on the concert stage. It’s great in that it helps to make us feel immersed in the situation, as well as adding on air of authenticity.
Regina Hall (Scary Movie and Think Like a Man) stars as Ryan Pierce, a successful author and TV personality. Her book has become her brand, which is the idea of a woman having it all. She’s a bit of a lifestyle guru. She wants to parlay that into her own TV show. In a way, she’s like Steve Harvey. She didn’t start out as a comedian, but, like him, she wants the same path of popular book to TV show. Harvey wrote the book Think Like a Man, an advice book for women, which helped to build the platform for his talk show. Some might argue that his radio show, which he had for 12 years prior, was a better platform for his TV show, but still.
Queen Latifah (Chicago and Set It Off) also stars as Sasha Franklin, a well-educated journalist who runs her own web site. Unfortunately, that site is a blog similar to the one by Perez Hilton. She posts gossip or dirt on people, particularly celebrities. She doesn’t want to be a Perez Hilton. She’s basically forced to be. She would rather be a legitimate journalist, but financial concerns pushed her in that direction.
Jada Pinkett-Smith (Jason’s Lyric and Set It Off) co-stars as Lisa Cooper, a nurse who is divorced with two children but she lives with her mom because she basically had to start over after her marriage ended. She had a bit of a wild side when she was younger but now she is a very conservative motherly type who goes overboard with being an old motherly type.
Tiffany Haddish (The Carmichael Show) also co-stars as Dina, an office worker whose job isn’t that specific. All we know is that she has a violent streak and is always very horny. She functions as the loud, brash, comic relief. If this were Think Like a Man, Haddish would be the Kevin Hart of this movie but somehow louder, funnier and obviously taller.
Through a montage at the beginning of the film, we learn that Ryan, Sasha, Lisa and Dina are friends from high school who collectively were known as “Flossy Posse,” a girl group that doesn’t do music. They just party together, dancing, drinking and doing hot guys. As they grew older, they drifted apart. They don’t hang out any more or really talk all that much. The specifics about that isn’t made totally clear, but it seems as if they never made any new friends, which could happen for one, two or three, but apparently all of them haven’t made new friends or formed any new posses.
Ryan gets the opportunity to go to Essence Fest, and she decides to invite her Flossy Posse. She hopes to reconnect or reignite the friendships, but, at the same time, there’s an investor at Essence Fest whom she wants to impress into giving her a TV show. The show would be a two-person-hosted show with Ryan and her husband, Stewart Pierce, played by Mike Colter (Luke Cage and The Good Wife), a former NFL star. He’s like a Michael Strahan-type, except sexier and shadier.
Issues regarding her marriage becomes the crux in the story that tests the limits of the friendships. It was reminiscent of The Good Wife. There was also a callback to Hall’s previous film When the Bough Breaks, which is also about her not being able to have a child naturally and her husband cheating on her. Yet, this movie ends up bringing out a range of emotions that all of the actresses handle amazingly, and during the cathartic climax through to the end of the film, the women hit home-runs, imploding, exploding, crying and loving like none other.
Along the way, the movie has great, raunchy, comedic bits that are laugh-out-loud. There’s an obsession with penis jokes that lead to a grapefruit gag that was literally bananas. A piss gag that was seemingly spoiled in the trailer wasn’t spoiled. It was in fact topped and made even more raunchy. A scene of the characters acting crazy because of being on drugs is a cliché thing to do in movies, but it’s done so well here that it puts all the other movies that have tried it to shame.
On top of all that, the movie can then pivot and have what was probably the sweetest and most joyful, bedroom prayer I’ve ever seen. Typically, people praying in a movie is a serious or somber thing. Here, it’s sweet and joyful. There’s a sweetness inherent in the whole movie, but there’s a sexiness to the film as well, embracing its slew of gorgeous men. From Larenz Tate who is basically playing his character from Love Jones (1997) to outright, eye-candy like Kofi Siriboe (Queen Sugar), this movie has it all and is one of the best of the year.
Rated R for crude, sexual content, pervasive language, brief graphic nudity and drug use.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 2 mins.