Review – Girls Trip

What’s this?

About a year ago, a friend of mine pointed me towards a YouTube video in which a woman who calls herself Angel demonstrated how to use a grapefruit to enhance a blowjob. Angel’s technique – which my girlfriend wholeheartedly believed was a prank I’d somehow engineered for my own benefit – is perhaps the most terrifying thing I’ve ever witnessed, and I am a man who has seen a video of a hostage being beheaded by a terrorist, and a woman in Ibiza fire a rugby ball from her vagina with such velocity that it hit a patron twenty feet away.

Girls Trip is essentially a feature-length version of Angel’s grapefruit video. It even includes a scene which specifically imitates it, and I think it’s telling that this is somehow less ridiculous than the original footage.

I should clarify that none of this is a criticism.

What’s it about?

Four girls and a trip. There’s more to it than that, but those are the essentials. Meet the girls: Ryan (Regina Hall), Sasha (Queen Latifah), Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Dina (Tiffany Haddish). In high school they were hard-partying college roommates who called themselves the “flossy posse”, but since then they’ve been yanked out of touch by the varied and extensive strains of adulthood. They’re going to New Orleans for the annual Essence Music Festival in order to rekindle their sisterhood and rediscover their wild sides, a premise that you might recognise from any number of comedies, but most specifically from Rough Night, which came out this summer, and was more or less the same thing. The difference here is that these four women are all black, and the jokes are actually funny.

Does their being black actually matter?

As I am through no fault of my own a white man, I probably can’t speak authoritatively about the travails of strong, independent black women. But the short is answer no, not really. From a broader cultural standpoint I imagine it does; it’s rare to see theatrical Hollywood releases fronted only by women, and rarer still by women of colour, and rarest of all in a movie that refuses to pander to viewers who don’t meet those demographical specifications, which Malcolm D. Lee’s film does not. But that film’s themes are universal. Girls Trip is about friendship, love, positivity, and publicly urinating while suspended from a zipline above Bourbon Street – things which I’m sure people of all races, genders and socioeconomic backgrounds have experienced.

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And it’s funny?

It is, often, and it’s also sometimes hysterical, but it relies on an unspoken contract between the film and its audience that despite the usual timeworn genre necessities – such as, for instance, long-simmering tensions bubbling to the surface at the end of the second act – Girls Night is really about the simple pleasures of drink, drugs, dancing and dick, and any combination of the above that an R-rating can allow for. I imagine that this might be a point of contention for people who would like something more meaningful and substantial from their late-summer comedies, but those are the types of people who buy land on the moon and can safely be ignored.

How’s the cast?

The undeniable standout is Tiffany Haddish, and it’s impossible to overstate how vital she is to the film’s success, especially in the stretches which are baggier, or when the sentimentality feels noticeably rote. Even without her, though, Girls Night is consistently elevated by people whose relationships and problems feel keenly observed, and while you can attribute that to the script – credited to Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver, who apparently wrote based on their own experiences – the actors are responsible for most of it. On paper, it might be difficult to buy Jada Pinkett Smith, one half of a Hollywood power couple, as a buttoned-up single mother, or Queen Latifah as a morally flexible internet gossipmonger, or even Regina Hall as what the film terms “the second coming of Oprah” – a celebrity with the perfect husband (Mike Colter) to complete what appearances suggest is the perfect life. But it’s to the film’s credit that none of these characters or their stories feels in service to comic set-pieces or mawkishness; the humour and the good-hearted optimism spring up organically.

So you recommend Girls Night?

Sure, why not? It’s one of those rare comedies that fancies itself as being terribly rude and then ironically has the balls to follow through on it, which I respect. Watching Tiffany Haddish simulate oral sex with a banana and a grapefruit would not constitute a compelling reason to watch a film, if you were to ask most mainstream critics, but thankfully I am not a mainstream critic, and I can say that yes, this scene does indeed constitute a good-enough reason to watch Girls Night. Thankfully there are several others, which make my position more defensible. It is also smart and charming and a jubilant celebration of womanhood, specifically that shared by black women, and it strikes me that we don’t have enough of such things. The Flossy Posse are here to slay.

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