There is no raunchier, more raucous, filthy and truly crass movie out this summer than Girls Trip – and I loved every minute of it.
From director Malcolm D. Lee of The Best Man Holiday and Barbershop: The Next Cut, his latest is all about the power and strength of female friendship, and what it might be like to trip on absinthe in a New Orleans night club. The film stars a bulletproof cast of talent made up of Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett Smith (who haven't teamed up since the bank robbery film Set It Off in 1996), Regina Hall and Tiffany Haddish as four old college roommates reuniting for a girls weekend during the Essence Music Festival. Girls Trip is pure, if very dirty, entertainment, and in the barren landscape of summer movies it shimmers like an oasis. Or a tsunami.
Ryan – played by Hall with Viola Davis-style swagger and grace – is the most successful of the girl crew, described by others as "the second coming of Oprah" with thousands of online followers and fans. She also boasts a bestselling book called You Can Have It All and a perfect marriage to the handsome Stewart (Luke Cage's Mike Colter). She's a black Sheryl Sandberg peddling advice on how to live your #bestlife. Her gal pals, whom Ryan hasn't seen for five years, quickly spot the cracks in this façade and the high jinks start rolling in from there.
With four writing credits to the film, including Black-ish creator Kenya Barris, the script is busting at the seams with wildly funny screeds and trash talk. It shifts the classic slapstick penis humour of movies such as The Hangover or American Pie into the world of women in a way few other movies successfully have. Queen Latifa proves once again her consistent knack for comedy, and Hall gets in some great zingers, but the movie belongs to Smith and Haddish. Smith's Lisa, a buttoned-up mom of two, has a hard time remembering what it's like to let her hair down. Haddish, who plays Dina, is more like a down-to-party Tasmanian devil wreaking havoc in great heels and turning things up many octaves wherever she goes. Together, they are a combustible yin and yang – but it's okay. What happens in New Orleans stays in New Orleans.
The white women who dot the margins of Girls Trip are nothing more than comic foils to the Bourbon Street misadventures of the four leads. And rightly so. After a century of Hollywood films where black women are typecast as literal or figurative servants to the whims of their white counterparts, it's about time. In one winking moment in Girls Trip that points to the unwavering centrality of blackness in the film, Ryan tries to explain Essence fest to her white agent (Kate Walsh, hamming it up). It's a weekend celebrating the different shapes and shades of blackness in all their wonder. Do not use phrases you've looked up on Urban Dictionary. Do not try to perform your wokeness. "You are a guest. Behave accordingly," Ryan tells her bluntly.
Maybe the film's final third could have been streamlined? Maybe some of the jokes get repetitive? Certainly the brand of humour won't be for everyone (I think in polite society the scene where a homeless man presses his genitals against a motel window would be called "explicit"). But manners and flaws be damned. All I know is that I haven't laughed this hard at the movies in a very long time.