Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
Not too long ago, there was a time when discovering a fantastic female-driven raunchcom was considered quite the task. But since the successes of BRIDESMAIDS and BAD MOMS, thankfully we are now swimming in an embarrassment of riches. This summer we’ve had two already that worked their magic to varying degrees. SNATCHED and ROUGH NIGHT’s strengths lay in how they played the care-free, crass comedy to its fullest. But the women at the center of director Malcolm D. Lee’s GIRLS TRIP have found the perfect balance between ribald humor and genuine heart. In some ways better than BRIDESMAIDS, and by far the best comedy of the summer, if not the year, it strikes comedy gold. It’s that ridiculously good.
Back in 1992, the Flossy Posse was formed. Journalist-turned-gossip-blogger Sasha (Queen Latifah), party-girl-turned-mom Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith), author-turned-“you can have it all” lifestyle guru Ryan (Regina Hall) and perpetual risk taker Dina (Tiffany Haddish) have been “ride or die” for decades. Lately, however, this tight knit group of friends has drifted apart due to life’s setbacks (like failed careers, marriages, etc.). All of this changes once Ryan is invited to be the keynote speaker at the Essence Festival in New Orleans with her life-long sweetheart Stewart (Mike Colter). The gals reunite and rekindle their friendship in an epic party weekend of drinking, dancing, dick jokes, debauchery and discovery.
Lee (director of shockingly underrated THE BEST MAN franchise), along with screenwriters Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver (working from a story also by Erica Rivinoja) do an excellent job chasing the bold, bawdy bits – like the ladies’ Bourbon Street Zipline experience, their absinthe freak out, and Dina’s memorable “grapefruiting” technique – with well-earned emotional moments between the characters. The dance-off set piece is a stand out as well. Female friendship is put on a pedestal, as are its sex-positive notions. Also infused into the narrative are heartrending (but never cloying) sentiments about rediscovering your own voice, surrounding yourself with strong women who build you up, and not disrespecting yourself. Music augments the light-hearted atmosphere. Lee adds artistic panache to necessary transitional montages, imbuing the picture with the city’s flavor. Plus, there’s even a helpful BLACK-ISH inspired scene involving Ryan and her agent Liz (Kate Walsh) about what slang white people should not say.
What really sells the goods are the genius, talented women that make up the ensemble. Hall, Latifah, Haddish and Smith are all as equally adept in their raw, vulnerable states (minus any artifice) as they are tossing off unexpected ad-libs and one-liners. They make it feel like you’re watching real friends. Walsh is even pretty fantastic in her supporting role. I love that there’s time for these brilliant moments to occur as they tend to be glossed over in films of this ilk. To laugh occasionally through tears is a wonderful feeling and they get us there. And not for nothing, these ladies all gave me jumpsuit envy as there are jumpsuits galore to gaze upon. Haddish, in a star-making, breakout role, may win the MVP crown with her brash, unabashed character. Though her character doesn’t experience a lot of growth, her assured conviction in delivering lines like “Imma be cool” as she takes off her hoop earrings and “A ghost tried to f*ck me,” earns my undying respect – as does her profanity-laden tirade about torturing a cheating spouse.
Sure, the story can’t entirely skirt predictability. You know the character with puppy-dog eyes won’t go unrequited in their love and another character isn’t going to go sexually unsatisfied. You know there will be a blow-up between the ladies and what will cause it. That said, the journey it takes to get to these plot points is an absolute blessing. It remains a unique, universally appealing and celebratory tale. It’s effervescent – dare I say, “heifervescent?”Actually, I think Ryan would pull me aside for that one.
GIRLS TRIP opens on July 21.