GIRLS TRIP

Empire (Australasia) - - On Screen - HE­LEN O’HARA

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.

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