Buoyed by its four powerhouse leading ladies, “Girls Trip” is a gut-bustingly funny, if sometimes uneven, movie with a huge heart.
This is a film written by women, about women, in particular four African-American women, and their relationships with each other. And when you mix in life, husbands, ex-husbands, kids, jobs, years gone by, shifting priorities, and a little too much absinthe, it blooms into a relatable story about female friendships – told with a bad case of potty mouth.
Regina Hall is Ryan, a successful “life coach” role model married to the smolderingly handsome Stewart (Mike Colter). When she is invited to be the keynote speaker at the Essence Festival in New Orleans, she is inspired to make the trip a girls weekend by reuniting with three distant, but lifelong friends. Jada Pinkett Smith is the buttoned-up Lisa, who has left her mojo somewhere in the trash under empty bottles of hand sanitizer. Queen Latifah brings her usual movie star gravitas as Sasha, a gossip blogger whose last possession is about to be repossessed. And Tiffany Haddish absolutely carries the movie with her hilarious turn as Dina, a broken-bottle wielding, tough talking truth-bomb thrower who helps the film overcome its occasional awkward pacing.
Ryan and Stewart’s perfect marriage is not all it seems. As the ladies partake in the party atmosphere of New Orleans, Ryan struggles to save her perfect image, her marriage and a huge licensing deal that is on the table for her. The rest of the plot unravels like an upturned knitting basket full of yarn, the balls rolling in all directions. There is also an old-school dance-off. And it is awesome.
Larenz Tate turns up as the dreamy guy that Tate should turn up as in every movie – the perfect guy. He is the only good one among the (naked) winos, cads, frat boys, sex objects and absentee ex-husbands.
But this is not just a man-bashing movie about getting wasted; there are heartfelt downbeats. Some of the best scenes in the movie are the unfunny ones among the four lead actresses. They are the Dream Team when all four are onscreen together, yet each actress has the depth of skill on her own to bring the whole crazy train to a dramatic halt. Ultimately, the movie is about why ride-or-die female friendships are so vital to a woman’s emotional health.
And also how too much absinthe might make you think a lamp is your date for the night.
For anyone who thinks this film might be tamer than any other raunchfest just because it’s female-centric (and this is a supreme compliment to Haddish’s comedic talent) here’s a warning: Haddish is not afraid of anything as an actress, let’s just say that much.
"Girls Trip" resets the bar both high and low; high as a film allowing four lead black actresses to shine as they do, low as raunchy as it gets, right in the gutter. But it’s pretty funny down there.
3 stars (out of four)
Starring Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish, Jada Pinkett Smith and Queen Latifah. Directed by Malcolm D. Lee. 122 minutes. Rated R for for crude and sexual content throughout, pervasive language, brief graphic nudity and drug material.