UK Release Date: 26th July 2017
Runtime: 122 minutes
Director: Malcolm D Lee
Writer: Kenya Barris, Tracy Oliver
Starring: Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish, Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, Mike Colter, Deborah Ayorinde, Larenz Tate
Synopsis: Four childhood friends reunite after several years for a festival celebrating black culture, where one of them is due to give a keynote speech about her perfect married life.
Comedy movies where women are allowed to be as silly, irresponsible and, most importantly, funny as men are very thin on the ground. When you narrow the field to comedy movies led by black women, the canon is even smaller. Thankfully, Girls Trip has arrived in cinemas as something of a comedic whirlwind. It’s a film in which four black women are placed in the kind of comedy environment that has produced male-led films like The Hangover. Given that sort of space to simply be funny, all four of the leads are able to find their comedic groove and produce one of the funniest comedies of the year.
Self help author Ryan Pierce (Regina Hall) has become incredibly successful in the wake of her squeaky clean public image and seemingly perfect marriage to football player Stewart (Mike Colter). When Ryan is booked to deliver the keynote address at a festival celebrating black culture, she gets in touch with buddies she hasn’t seen in the years since they stopped partying as the ‘Flossy Posse’. Soon, Ryan and her friends – gossip blogger Sasha (Queen Latifah), sexually adventurous party girl Dina (Tiffany Haddish) and repressed mum-of-two Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith) – descend on New Orleans for the festival and all manner of booze-fuelled debauchery ensues.
Girls Trip is, first and foremost, tremendously funny. It’s refreshing to see a film where women are simply allowed to be funny without a necessarily feminist focus. This is absolutely something that has been done in recent years with films like Bridesmaids and Bad Moms, but Girls Trip may be more raucous and joyous than either of those movies. It’s a film that is about friendship between women; friendship that has fallen by the wayside as the characters’ successes and failures pushed them apart. These are likeable people and we want them to find the common ground among their differences.
The film is set in a wonderful world where men are objectified every bit as much as women. Director Malcolm D Lee really finds a position of female gaze, where it’s the male form that is repeatedly ogled. When the utterly outrageous Tiffany Haddish tells Jada Pinkett Smith to get “at least three dicks” over the weekend, it’s exactly the sort of dehumanising sexual dialogue that is too often directed at female characters. The sexuality in the film is entirely about female pleasure, but that doesn’t prevent it from being gross-out and entertaining. You will absolutely never look at a grapefruit in the same way again.
That’s not to say that everything in Girls Trip works. Despite the believable and impressive comedic performances from the likes of Regina Hall and comedic live-wire Tiffany Haddish, there are moments where the script’s desire to reach for gross-out laughs overwhelms the sisterly camaraderie. One already notorious set piece involving a zipline makes the infamous dress fitting scene in Bridesmaids look like Downton Abbey, but feels out of place, and another gag involving some absinthe-spiked cocktails goes on for far too long. As much as Haddish is frequently the comedic highlight, it’s Smith’s journey from wallflower to sexual dynamo that is the most satisfying story thread.
Girls Trip is a film that takes a rather formulaic narrative – you could almost certainly plot it out from the first moment – and spins it into a rousing story of female empowerment. The climactic scenes provide plenty of room for sisterhood to triumph and, even though the film is a little trite, it does more than enough to leave a tear in the eye as it moves to a conclusion. This is a film in which men are described as “rudderless and needing a purpose”, while the women know exactly what they want and how to get it. We need to stop asking whether women can be funny and start asking when the men will be able to match up to this.
Pop or Poop?
The current boom for female-led comedy has perhaps reached its zenith with Girls Trip, in which four incredibly funny women create an indelible and believable group of friends we want to see together. Tiffany Haddish and Jada Pinkett Smith are the comedic highlights and the message of female empowerment is keenly felt in the film’s emotional concluding scenes.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.