In Girls Trip, it’s all fun and games until reality rears its ugly head. Thanks to some enjoyable wacky and unexpectedly nuanced performances, director Malcolm D Lee has crafted an entertaining “women on the town” movie that has more of a heart and a bigger brain than its advertising makes it seem.
A good question to ask yourself coming to this film is, “what would a story about the importance of sisterhood be like with raunchy sex gags and early Ren & Stimpy-esque humor mixed in”? The Flossy Posse are determined to solve this mystery.
The quartet has been friends throughout their youth, but their career paths have forced them to lose touch with each other over the years. That is until Ryan Pierce (Regina Hall), an acclaimed self-help author married to the hunky ex-NFL star Stewart Pierce (Mike Colter) is selected to be a keynote speaker at New Orleans’ Essence Festival.
It’s her perfect opportunity to reunite with the outrageously wild Dina (Tiffany Haddish), the super-prim and uptight mother Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith), and the gossip blogger Sasha (Queen Latifah) for another get-together like old times- drinking, dancing, and raising hell in the Big Easy.
Problems arise when Sasha gets a scoop on photos of Stewart and an Instagram girl (Deborah Ayorinde). But there’s even hilarity in moments of comfort, a good example being how increasingly sadistic Dina’s descriptions of torturing Stewart become. Ryan barely tolerates Stewart’s unwillingness to take their relationship seriously, while also wanting to maintain their public image of a committed couple for the sake of their business.
The four try to press on with the business of pleasure, especially Lisa who reignites her sexual energy and learns to loosen up more. But perhaps by too much, as French Quarter visitors under her zipline can attest after she’s had too much to drink, and an unfortunate student (Kofi Strobe) when she gets a weird bedroom idea.
This movie is as crude and raunchy as any road trip film starring a bunch of dudes, but it’s balanced out by how engaging The Flossy Posse’s connection is. Some of the gags get pretty cartoonish at points, but never to a world-breaking degree. Dina might mean well most of the time, but it’s probably not the best idea to let her make your beverages. The gang’s attempts to wear off the effects of them is a creative sequence of mayhem involving dance-offs, brawling, and erotic hallucinations.
Not every joke necessarily lands, there are some points where the film is trying a bit too hard to be edgy and raunchy- I’m not sure if Mr. Creepy Flasher was needed in that one scene. But the charisma of the four leads and their delivery weathers through most of those rough patches. The filmmakers are apt at making the Essence Festival feel like a once-in-a-lifetime experience, thanks to some sweeping cinematography and fun performances from acts like Faith Evans, Common and Diddy.
Because their energy and joy are so infectious, these are easily protagonists you’ll want to root for to work past their issues and have a good time. You can tell when the cast is clearly having fun, and it carries over to the characters. Meanwhile, Ryan’s insistence on staying with a guy who clearly doesn’t respect her is a source of frustration for the other three, and also a lit powder keg burning in the background.
Certainly it wasn’t going to be a story devoid of real conflict. But after an hour of almost non-stop goofiness, it easily rips your heart out once things come to a head. Overall, there’s a major sense of dramatic mood whiplash as it reaches its conclusion. The message it tries to convey is an important one, and it’s helped by how strong and heartfelt, the performances are here, especially Hall’s.
So, was Girls Trip unfairly snubbed by the Golden Globes, as Pinkett Smith has recently argued? If nothing else, I think it’s definitely worth a second look for how subversive it feels in many respects, on top of the four leads being given a long leash with their material. At some point, it yanks the rug from under your feet, but it’s still a wacky comedy at the end of the day.
There are more hits than misses so far as the jokes, and the actresses lean into the vulgarity all the way with no shyness whatsoever. Combined with the good themes and their execution and a howlingly funny breakout performance from Haddish, I’ll gladly recommend it.