By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
With great movies like Wonder Woman, Colossal, Maudie, and The Women’s Balcony premiering this year, 2017 might end up becoming the year for women in film. With compelling female characters, empowering stories, and talent both in front of and behind the cameras, women have had quite an impact on cinema this year. Though they have scored big in the superhero, drama, and milder comedy genres, they had yet to make a big win in the raunchy comedy category. Both Snatched and Rough Night attempted to do that this year, but both films have some issues that held them back from achieving greatness. With Girls Trip, writers Kenya Barris and Karen McCullah take a turn at showing mostly successful, attractive and vibrant women cutting loose and showing their wild sides. Though the film does have some wonderful messages about the value of friendship and female empowerment, it does occasionally falter when it comes to the comedy. Still, I have to say that the comedic gags that do work outnumber the ones that don’t, resulting in a genuinely enjoyable comedy with a lot of heart.
Four long-time friends reunite for a long overdue weekend New Orleans getaway. During their heyday, the quartet called themselves, “The Flossie Posse.” Known for their wild partying, it’s a wonder that they never got themselves in major trouble. Those wild days are mostly behind them now. Lisa Cooper (Jada Pinkett Smith) spends her days juggling a career as a medical professional and a divorced mother to a young son and daughter. The outspoken and unfiltered Dina (Tiffany Haddish), on the other hand, still tries to maintain a wild single lifestyle before she gets too old to do so. Sasha Franklin (Queen Latifah) once had a successful career as a respected journalist, but now struggles to make ends meet as a gossip blogger for a tabloid website. The most successful member of the group, Ryan Pierce (Regina Hall), has become the poster woman for success as she as made herself into a multi-media sensation who is also devoted wife to her former football star husband Stewart (Mike Colter). Ryan is being honored for her success at the Essence Festival in New Orleans and she invites her posse to join her for the celebration. When the wild posse reunites, the women not only cut loose and try to relive their wilder days, they rediscover how much their friendship and sisterhood means to them.
Directed by Malcolm D. Lee (The Best Man, Undercover Brother, The Best Man Holiday), Girls Trip is much better when it focuses on the bonds of friendship and how empowering it can be for women to have these strong emotional ties than when it tries to deliver raunchy comedy. The film earnestly celebrates sisterhood, friendship and the resilient ability women can have to rise above problems and challenges. Granted, the movie does have its hilarious and moderately funny moments which had me laughing, but the movie also has a few failed attempts at jokes and gags and some gags that are way too over-the-top to be genuinely funny.
Tiffany Haddish’s character Dina serves as the main source of the wild and raunchy humor in the film, and though she did have me heartily laughing in some moments, there were others which either went on too long or were simply too much. To Haddish’s credit, the energetic and exciting actress does have a natural talent for comedy and comic timing, but I feel that the director Lee should have taken some measures to tone things down a little. I am a firm believer in the “less is more” approach and her character gets a bit out of hand at times.
Her co-stars deliver more nuanced performances and seem to have more experience in handling the comedic elements. In addition to the great work by Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett Smith and Queen Latifah, the film also features solid work by Larenz Tate, Mike Colter and Deborah Ayorinde. Kate Walsh also stars as Ryan’s fatuous agent Elizabeth, and though she has some funny moments, her schtick in the film gets old rather quickly. It is another case of trying too hard and too much of an okay thing.
Had the filmmakers had exercised a tad more restraint with some of the comedy, this movie would be receiving a higher rating from me. I am giving Girls Trip a slightly generous three star rating because the more poignant and heartfelt beats of the film are the ones that truly won my heart. These are the elements in movies this year that are celebrating the hearts and strength of women everywhere. Girls Trip may not be one of the best celebrations of women this year, but its heart is definitely in the right place.