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Thursday, 31 August 2017

Girls Trip

(MA15+) ★★★½

Director: Malcolm D. Lee.

Cast: Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Tiffany Haddish, Jada Pinkett Smith, Larenz Tate, Mike Colter, Kate Walsh.

Dutch ovens can be hilarious.
IF you missed the girls-gone-bad comedy of Rough Night earlier this year, don't worry. Go and see Girls Trip instead.

This film about women cutting loose, working out their issues, and getting "white-girl drunk" is a far superior comedy because it does many of the things Rough Night tried to do, but actually pulls them off.

The key to the success of Girls Trip (shouldn't there be a possessive apostrophe there somewhere?) when compared to Rough Night is it manages to feel more real in spite of its own contrivances. The characters feel more real, the relationships are more real, and the situation is more real. Instead of relying on a high-concept idea like "bachelorette party accidentally kills stripper" and then exploring the group's interactions through that plot point, Girls Trip simply explores the relationships as the characters bounce through the ups and downs of an overdue getaway in New Orleans. The tone is more even, the plot is minimal but it never stretches or struggles, and nothing feels tacked on as a result in Girls Trip. Oh, and it's funny.

Organiser of the trip is Ryan (Hall), a multimedia star and minor celebrity who is touted as the "second coming of Oprah". While trying to keep her marriage (and therefore her brand) on the right track, Ryan decides she needs to let her hair down a little and reconnect with her longtime crew.

So joining her in New Orleans while she sells books and gives talks is her fellow "Flossy Posse" sistren - celeb blogger Sasha (Latifah), repressed mother-of-two Lisa (Pinkett Smith), and the still-hasn't-grown-up party girl Dina (Haddish).

There's nothing spectacular plotwise about Girls Trip - it's simply about four women having fun and sorting out some stuff. But it does it well.

For starters, the four women seem believable as friends, and the performances are all pretty solid. Latifah is the most comfortable and best actor of the bunch, but Haddish is the scene stealer. They get a decent-enough script too, and make the most of it - there's obviously a bit of improvising going on, especially from Haddish. When she's letting rip, talking about what's she going to do to Lisa's philandering husband or what she really thinks about someone, the film is on fire and the laugh's keep coming.

From that strong core of performances and characters, Girls Trip weaves a nice web of relationships, building things up and tearing them down, with Lisa's marital issues at the core, although Sasha's money problems are a nice subplot that intersects well with Lisa's plot. It passes a nice comment on the nature of celebrity gossip too. But mainly this is about women having fun and each others' backs. There's a more serious through line about discovering yourself but this is where the film tends toward the mawkish and the melodramatic. While it's a nice theme and a necessary one, it does make Girls Trip take a side-journey into soap opera territory from time to time.

The other big weakness here is a reliance on well-worn party tropes, such as the accidental drug-taking, a dance-off, and a sexual encounter that goes wrong. Admittedly the film handles these well and milks a couple of laughs, but this is where the film starts to feel generic. Overall, Girls Trip is nothing terribly new, but it's good at what it does.

When it works best is when the girls are either way up or way down and the dialogue, quips, swears, put-downs, and gags are flying thick and fast. This Girls Trip looks like it would have been fun to be on, and we get to go along for the ride.

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