Film Review: Girls Trip

One over-the-top Trip.
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Following quick upon the heels of Rough Night, Girls Trip is the second comedy of the season to star and pointedly cater to women. Add to the mix Atomic Blonde, an action film that sees Charlize Theron playing a character who is both like James Bond and one of his femme fatales, and it would seem establishment Hollywood is endeavoring mightily to correct its much-touted “women problem.” It would also seem the industry is going about this task by serving to women in generous spades ideas stereotypically considered the domain of men: lots of violence, sex and, per the comedies, raunch. Is that what women want? To judge by the fan reaction at a recent screening of Girls Trip, the answer is a resounding yes.

Like Rough Night, Girls Trip centers on former college friends who’ve grown apart in recent years. They’re gathering at the behest of their Queen Bee, Ryan Pierce (Regina Hall), for a weekend of shenanigans, displays of bodily fluids suggested and overt, recriminations, and some sisterly affirmations. Ryan is a successful media personality and author of a book whose title suggests enough hubris to offend the gods twice over: You Can Have It All. Along with her husband and business partner (Mike Colter), Ryan has been invited to attend a weekend conference in New Orleans hosted by the magazine Essence. Joining Ryan at her invitation are Sasha (Queen Latifah), a savvy writer who is wasting her journalism skills on a gossip blog; pocket-sized Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith), a single mother as mommish as a pair of high-waisted and shapeless jeans; and Dina (Tiffany Haddish). How to pack Dina into a phrase? There is nothing that can encapsulate the volubility or stamina of her vulgarity. Dina’s insults and actions “take it to the next level” and then break the game altogether as they start anew something no one else is ever quite prepared to play. If raunch were a person, she would hide from Dina. Dina is so awful she is positively awesome.

As the weekend unfolds, the girls party and fight, with other people and among themselves. Ryan’s claim to “have it all” is challenged through a series of soap-opera plot twists. This plot, like its characters, is over-the-top; but then, everything about Girls Trip is excessive. At two hours and two minutes the film is far too long, but its excesses in all other regards constitute its appeal. The mix of soap opera and bawdy (the word here sounds tame) comedy mostly works because it leaves you gasping without respite at one thing or another. Hall is also a very good actress, and then, it’s worth noting a second time, there are the virtuosic contributions of Dina. Your reaction to her will determine your response to the film she enlivens.

Girls Trip ends as you would expect and director Malcolm D. Lee gets us there in a comprehensible if belated manner. A concerning four writers (Kenya Barris, Karen McCullah, Tracy Oliver and Erica Rivinoja) worked on the script, which may be why it’s so long and heavily episodic. But they created many quotable lines, a must for any comedy. Ultimately, if you do not find the combination of drunken ziplining with public urination hilarious, stay far away from Girls Trip. There will be plenty of others willing to say, “Thank you, sir. May I have another?”

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