Review: Girls Trip
Girls Trip is a fun skate across thin ice--as long as we keep things on the surface, we are fine. But if you stand on the cracks a little too long, it will be a disaster. That's the best way I can describe the mixture of superficial fun and problematic messages; the mixture of superb performances and shoddy production; the mixture of a generally strong story and inane details. Basically, this is probably a perfect movie if you aren't looking too closely.
The setup is that Ryan (played by Regina Hall), Lisa (played by Jada Pinkett Smith), Dina (played by Tiffany Haddish) and Sasha (played by Queen Latifah) are a group of four friends--"The Flossy Posse"--who have lost touch of the years. They set out to reconnect with a trip to New Orleans where they will support Ryan, who will be speaking at Essence Fest as part of her public persona as a relationship coach.
Along the way, Ryan’s marriage runs into trouble and the ladies work through tears as they try to be there for her. But Sasha’s career as a gossip columnist creates drama when the opportunity arises for her to profit from the salacious details of Ryan’s crumbling marriage. Whether the women can persevere through strife is an open question throughout, but what is never in doubt is that they have a ton of fun while doing it.
At first look, there is a lot to celebrate here. Not only is this a story primarily about the lives and interactions of Black women, but the cast is a true delight. From the casual feel they give to every conversation, to a certain riotously funny drug-fueled dance battle, these women nail it. Tiffany Haddish as the screwball scene-stealer; Regina Hall as the emotional core; and Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett Smith as the fun but complex compliments that round out the soulful quartet. Each works beautifully next to the others.
Even still, it is hard not to take issue with the particular stories being told. Black women are often stereotyped as this or that and the film is fairly comfortable staying in those lanes. Whether it is being loud, lewd or single, the ultimate representation could be better. And while these stories being told is a welcomed change over their absence, I am not sure the messaging is quite the right pitch. We walk away with a picture of the Black family in tatters that, while perhaps accurate, is really discouraging, which wouldn’t be so bad if the film didn’t seem to ultimately celebrate this not-so-great state.
Serious stuff aside, the jokes on display range from raunchy to uncomfortable, but you could just as easily characterize them as progressive and brave. It is all about perspective and how the jokes strike you. I am comfortable saying most of them were not for me, but it didn’t lessen the appeal of these characters, which ultimately save a film that could have been a mess. Some combination of casting, acting and directing created the kind of warm friendships rarely captured on film. The fact that those friendships were between Black women make me excited to see if the inevitable sequel can do a little better with the rest.
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