DIRECTOR Malcolm D. Lee
CAST Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Tiffany Haddish, Larenz Tate
PLOT The ‘Flossy Posse’ are four college friends who reunite after a long separation for a wild weekend in New Orleans. As they reforge their bond, old tensions and new bubble up.
THERE’S A HUGE comedy sub-genre centering on the wild weekend, friends’ reunion or both, so on paper Girls Trip is yet another iteration of something we’ve seen a million times already. But this works better than its fellows, its blindingly charismatic cast elevating it to more the level of a Bridesmaids or a Hangover than a Grown Ups or a Wild Hogs. The key is that these women absolutely seem like friends. At their worst and angriest, this lot love one another deeply, and it makes even the darkest moments strangely inspiring. And so while the lack of apostrophe in the film’s title is initially upsetting, treat it as a pun and a statement of fact and go with it anyway.
To the extent that the group has a central figure it’s Ryan (Regina Hall), an author and lifestyle guru who, with her picture perfect marriage to Stewart (Mike Colter) is poised on the verge of mega-stardom. She’s invited to be keynote speaker at New Orleans’ Essence Festival, and invites her erstwhile best friends — who haven’t seen one another for several years — along for a get-together.
There’s Sasha (Queen Latifah), once a serious journalist but now a gossip blogger in financial trouble, who fell out with Ryan for initially unspecified reasons. Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith) is so devoted to her kids and devastated by her divorce that she has lost touch completely with the sex goddess she once was. And Dina (Tiffany Hadish) is the joker of the pack: newly fired but blithely confident about, well, everything. Within moments of arriving in Vegas she’s caused them to be kicked out of their luxury hotel and forced to seek shelter elsewhere, a process that involves a surprising amount of elderly male nudity. But soon the real business of partying, and attempting to reforge their bonds of friendship, begins.
That reconnection takes some time, with overly careful manners and diplomatic peacekeeping giving way to openness as more alcohol comes into play. The usual flashpoints — money, relationships, work— cause the fights, though the build-up to a knock-down, brutally honest row is beautifully and realistically drawn out. In the meantime we’re treated to spectacular scatalogical and sexual adventures that vary from unnecessarily disgusting to strangely inspiring. Pinkett Smith does much of the heavy lifting here, trying to throw herself into the scene but fatally out of practice at seduction, while Kate Walsh, as Ryan’s agent, plays a hilariously token white girl. And director Malcolm D. Lee lets Haddish go completely nuts, turning every scene up to maximum volume. She can get a little much, but there are just enough laughs to make it worthwhile.
The script throws in a few curveballs along the predictable route to a predictable ending, questions about whether compromise can be worthwhile and whether romance is as important as shared goals, but it’s not the little twists or the question of relationships with men that carry us. It’s the charisma and character of the quartet: Hall as the brain, Pinkett Smith the heart, Latifah the guts and Hadish the unrestrained id. Their bond rings true, and even their disagreements come from a place of love. You may find yourself wishing for a place in the Flossy Posse, or reflecting on your own version, by the end. Let’s just hope you don’t end up hanging from a zip wire and peeing in the street though.
VERDICT It’s loud, at times unwatchably gross and sometimes lingers on the verge of hysteria. But it’s also a warm-hearted and optimistic celebration of black womanhood. Maybe friendship can save us all.