Director: Malcolm D. Lee
Screenplay: Kenya Barris, Tracy Oliver
Starring: Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish, Larenz Tate, Mike Colter, Kate Walsh, Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah
Runtime: 122 Minutes
Coming up as the first of the two major female-led comedies of the summer (the second being Rough Night), Girls Trip is a pleasant surprise in a summer of bum note comedies. Directed by Malcolm D. Lee, whose proud repertoire of mostly successful Black American mainstream comedies, the otherwise traditional ‘girls behaving badly’ narrative is injected with a language and flavour brought to the surface by its wonderful quartet of actresses.
Ryan (Regina Hall), Sasha (Queen Latifah), Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Dina (Tiffany Haddish) are all distinct personalities who bounce off each other well in both a dramatic and comedic sense as their very different lifestyles see them butting heads and rekindling old bonds of sisterhood. The initial opening of a heightened montage is almost too blunt and fast to register the emotional connection with the group, but as soon as they start meeting up again and the formal pleasantries give way to baser instincts amid their booze-fuelled New Orleans weekend, the dialogue and chemistry flows with an intense and infective energy that only releases when their personal conflicts begin to spill over.
For a film that celebrates the roots of black American culture in the midst of its setting and environment of Hip Hop and R&B music, it's nice see such figures exhibited without the strain of racial commentary to be made of either economic or social status. If anything it's worrisome that even though two of the more well-off characters discuss their failed plans to follow their dreams they can still afford to sustain a lifestyle more significant than most (for the most part).
Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver’s screenplay sparkles in its smaller moments as much as its comedy set-pieces. While the generic gross-out gags involving the drug trips, all night benders and other dubious antics are all well-handled by its director – bar one urination joke that maybe goes a step too far – it’s the scenes like the drawn-out confrontation in the hotel lobby where all their frustrations are realistically vented that stick out the most.
The weaknesses lie in the supporting cast who are a considerably dryer bunch, especially with the men. Mike Colter’s unfaithful husband isn’t exactly chortle-worthy and rather stiff, while new love interest in Larenz Tate seems to house no characteristic other than he’s nice. Kate Walsh makes the most out of a well utilised token white role but she isn’t around much.
Though overlong and ill restrained at times, Girls Trip is an unexpected treat. It may not be breaking new ground in originality but the cast are great – featuring a film stealing turn from Smith as the timid mother let loose – it’s consistently warm and funny and probably the best film of its kind to arrive since 2011’s Bridesmaids.