Girls Trip is about four lifelong college friends: celebrity author Ryan (Regina Hall), gossip blogger Sasha (Queen Latifah), mother of two Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith) and recently fired party girl Dina (Tiffany Haddish). As the “Flossy Posse”, they reunite as they all take a trip down to New Orleans for the Essence music festival as part of Ryan’s publicity junket but when it is revealed that her celebrity partner husband Stewart (Mike Colter) has been unfaithful, tensions soon arise and cracks in the friendship begin to form as Ryan has to ignore the truth for the sake of her public image, much to the outrage of her friends.
What makes Girls Trip work so well, why it’s a cut above your average by-the-numbers summer comedy, is its central group of characters: The Flossy Posse. For the most part, they each have their own unique characteristics and it’s undeniable that the quartet of actresses share a genuine chemistry, they’re not just doing this for the paycheck and they are what elevate the film the most. As main protagonist Ryan, Regina Hall gives a fine leading performance as she is able to cut loose and go wild with the rest of them but also manages to deliver in the more dramatic, hard-hitting moments. Also, Jada Pinkett Smith manages to stand out a great deal as her character Lisa has probably the most compelling journey, starting as a single parent mother of two, while also effectively mothering the other three Flossy Posse girls, who gradually loosens up, unleashes her inner party animal and goes off on her quest to score with a hot guy. There’s also Queen Latifah who plays gossip blogger Sasha but, although she contributes to the group chemistry, her character is a bit of a fifth wheel as the plotline that revolves around her blog doesn’t go anywhere and overall, her character isn’t as interesting as those of Ryan, Lisa and Dina.
And as others have indeed noted, Tiffany Haddish is the film’s MVP as the group wildcard Dina. A veritable ball of energy and with a certain colourful vocabulary, she shoots out all the best one liners brilliantly and watching her move around the screen, whether it be twerking a human statue or dancing alongside Diddy, is always so much fun to watch. When things in the film get slow, Haddish is often there to raise a smile and she is a riot, delivering plenty of outrageous moments while also having a heart and generally being a truly likeable character, never annoying or embarrassing.
The film’s supporting cast is also game for a laugh and above all others, Kate Walsh stands out the most as Ryan’s excitable agent Liz, who provides plenty of smiles as she makes some ill-advised attempts to connect with the black people around her by using plenty of words from the “urban dictionary”, much to the bewilderment of Ryan and her husband. Mike Colter also puts in a good non-Luke Cage performance and Larenz Tate, while likeable, is just there to be the obligatory “good guy” that Ryan can have a moment with, an overly nice guy to contrast with Colter’s unfaithful Stewart.
And there’s loads of cameos from a whole load of people that I couldn’t possibly recognise, such as Common, Ne-Yo, Faith Evans, Estelle and Diddy. And Ava DuVerney and Mariah Carey who I did recognise.
As a comedy film, it’s clearly important that the film actually be funny and thankfully, the humour in Girls Trip works very well and there were long periods of time where I couldn’t stop grinning. Particularly in the first half, the jokes come thick and fast and on the whole, they almost always hit their mark due to the stellar performances of the cast and the well-judged direction of Malcolm D. Lee. As an R-rated film, it effectively manages to be fun, edgy, outrageous and with a whole load of f-bombs but it never goes overboard, never gets ridiculous, embarrassing or crass. But I will say that there’s a certain section involving a night out on absinthe that had the potential to be the film’s big showstopper but ultimately came up a bit short; there was potential to push some boundaries and to truly let loose but, funny though it is, this section could have been just a bit bolder.
But Girls Trip also has problems because after a certain point, the comedy dries up and it inevitably focuses on its more dramatic, emotional elements, including many one-on-one heart-to-heart moments revolving around Ryan’s relationship with her husband and Sasha’s gossip blog. The problem is that this all starts to get very repetitive, going around in circles as there’s some hijinks, then a serious talk, then more hijinks and so on; it gets tiresome as the slightly thin plot stands still and it focuses on its soap opera style storylines about infidelity and a you-can-see-it-coming-from-a-mile-away surprise pregnancy, inevitably leading to a group fallout, a stirring, heartfelt speech and an obligatory reconciliation. The actors do all they can to keep it afloat but events in the overlong second half regrettably fall into cliche, not helped by a sappy, obvious, emotionally stirring score. At the end of the day, Girls Trip could have benefited from some further editing, making it more compact and losing some of its more baggy material, as the second half feels like too much of a trudge.