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Review: Girls Trip (2017)

Girls Trip (2017)

Directed by: Malcolm D. Lee

Premise: Four friends (Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Tiffany Haddish) reunite for a weekend in New Orleans during the Essence Festival. What is supposed to be a weekend of drinks and dancing goes sideways as scandalous revelations and old grudges come to the surface.

What Works: Girls Trip has a solid cast of players. Each of the lead women is cast to a particular type and they do it well. Regina Hall plays the wealthy professional whose success is a veneer. In this case, Hall’s character is a lifestyle professional who is married to a former athlete and together they exude an image of domestic bliss but the marriage is little more than a business partnership that’s on the verge of disintegration. Queen Latifah is cast as a journalist whose career choices have put her in a financially precarious position. Jada Pinkett Smith plays the mom of the group while Tiffany Haddish is cast as the lewd party girl. The four lead actors are good in their roles and they have a convincing rapport with each other. There is an additional notable performance by Kate Walsh as the manager of Hall’s character. While the central cast are black, Walsh is white and her character is culturally tone deaf. There are a few moments in which the manager tries to sound hip and cool by dropping African American colloquialisms and these scenes are comically cringe inducing.

What Doesn’t: Girls Trip is what some film commentators call an algorithm movie; films like Girls Trip are less works of creativity and more industrial products. This movie adheres to a formula that’s been seen many times and some of the key creative players of Girls Trip have made versions of this story before. Director Malcom D. Lee previously helmed The Best Man Holiday and actress Regina Hall has played equivalent characters in similar films such as the Think Like a Man movies; in fact, the plot of Girls Trip is an awful lot like Think Like a Man Too. The movie flings together a group of old friends now in middle age with each of them fulfilling a particular type. Throughout the movie these women get into a series of crazy adventures with escalating tensions that eventually lead to a break up that is quickly resolved when everyone remembers the value of friendship. Girls Trip works through that formula exactly. It’s executed with moderate success and there are a few zany misadventures along the way but there’s not much imagination to any of it. This film consists of a lot of padding. It runs just over two hours and there is no reason for Girls Trip to be that long especially for a movie that doesn’t stray from its industrial formula. The tone of Girls Trip is all over the place. The marital drama and the friendship conflicts are like something out of a Lifetime movie but other parts of Girls Trip are really raunchy, much more so than a lot of recent one-crazy-night comedies like Rough Night. The bawdy parts of Girls Trip don’t comport with the melodrama and one sequence cancels out the effect of the other. This film is not intended to be anything other than a silly sisterhood comedy with a contemporary raunchy touch but the gender politics of Girls Trip are worth discussing because the film clearly wants to be taken as a feminist piece. The story is set at the Essence Festival, Regina Hall’s character is put though a plotline that disrupts a patriarchal marital arrangement, and Girls Trip demonstrates a progressive attitude toward the sexuality of women of color. But Girls Trip’s feminist credentials are seriously undermined by the rest of its content. The supposedly empowering moments are offset by gags that are degrading to the central characters and a lot of this movie consists of women being shallow and catty and getting into fights over a man.

Bottom Line: As a one-crazy-night comedy, Girls Trip checks all the boxes and will probably satisfy its intended audience. But the formula is tired and its feminist pretensions are disingenuous at best.

Episode: #658 (July 30, 2017)